Here’s a fun Thursday question:
Should the county buy Scott Adams’ new two-story faux brick office building in downtown Inverness?
County Administrator Steve Howard thinks it’s worth considering, though Adams’ asking price of $2 million is certainly eye-catching.
Your initial reaction is probably similar to mine: Are they CRAZY? With all the challenges on our plate, spending good money on a building seems shortsighted.
But after a brief chat with Howard, I actually see where he’s coming from.
So let’s break it down.
First off, the building. Adams, a former county commissioner, bought the property in 2018 for $58,000. It’s a tiny parcel, about two-thirds the size of a standard housing lot in the Highlands.
It’s so small that Adams couldn’t build the office without a special arrangement with the city. Adams paid a $12,500 stipend so that he wouldn’t have to provide parking.
The property appraiser lists the market value at $115,260; a city building permit estimates the 4,800-square-foot building value at $600,000, though it’s not finished yet.
(Mike note: Property Appraiser Cregg Dalton reminded me the current value is based on vacant land; the building's value isn't added until after a certificate of occupancy is issued.)
Unless the county does an appraisal, which will be necessary to purchase, its actual value is a guess right now.
A real estate flyer showing an aerial of the property states: “Rare opportunity to own this new commercial building in the heart of downtown Inverness. The building is being offered as a shell allowing new owners to outfit and occupy the space as desired.”
Asking price: $2 million.
So why is the county interested?
First, one thing to know about Howard: He’s always thinking ahead. Howard lets county commissioners be the politicians while he, behind the scenes, puts the pieces together. They don’t know what they don’t know until Howard brings options to ponder and discuss.
A few months back I wrote about the county’s plan to spend $4 million retrofitting the former supervisor of elections office, known as the historic Coke building, to TEMPORARILY house some judges until a permanent solution is found.
I suggested at the time it made better sense, just logically, for the county commission administration to move from the Courthouse instead of judges.
Howard is of similar thinking.
Howard believes the Coke building has more potential value to the county than using it for courts or administrative offices. We'd like to hear more about that.
The county is likely looking at a six-figure space needs study at some point. Not just for the Courthouse, but also the Lecanto Government Building, Citrus County Resource Center, West Citrus Center at Meadowcrest and other county offices that house employees and directly serve the public.
Just like the need for a short- and long-range transportation master plan to get a handle on our road issues, the county should have the same thing for government offices. A study will break it down.
Unfortunately, Howard can’t wait that long. The judges want space now. County commissioners should be planning an exit strategy out of the courthouse now.
And that’s where the Adams Building comes in.
Howard isn’t coming right out and saying it, but the Adams Building could house county commissioners and their staff, freeing the Courthouse for court-only functions. (Odd coincidence: Commissioners’ assigned parking spaces are in the lot right behind the Adams Building.)
He figures no harm in bringing it up, which Howard will do during Tuesday’s commission meeting. Unless commissioners are set against it, an appraisal would give us a more realistic number to look at.
Now. It’s still buying a building and we’re not always happy about that. The uproar over buying the Meadowcrest office comes to mind; though thinking about it, that was a divisive county commission. Our current five may disagree on the details but they’re all rowing in the same direction.
And, yeah, the irony is not lost on possibly buying property from a former commissioner who earned a reputation of questioning government motives. I’m fairly certain “Commissioner” Adams would oppose this purchase.
That said, Howard may be onto something here.
You know me — I’m all about conversation. This seems like a good one.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.