Wareham building purchase debated

April 28, 1999

Wareham BuildingBy SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer

The Washington County Commissioners are considering spending almost $2 million over the next few years to expand county government operations into a nearby building.

Commissioners Paul L. Swartz and William J. Wivell said they are skeptical about the wisdom of paying $635,000 to buy the 24,000-square-foot Wareham Building at 138 W. Washington St.

"I am not convinced we need the space. I am not convinced it is a good investment," Swartz said Wednesday.

The County Commissioners will hold a June 8 public hearing to get feedback on the possible acquisition of the property. The building, which has four stories and a basement, is across the street from the Miller House.


Preliminary estimates for renovation of the building are about $1.2 million, said Public Works Director Gary Rohrer. However, the county does not intend to do any renovations the first year, he said.

When fully renovated the building could be worth $3 million, Rohrer said. The property was appraised at about $635,000.

There are only two buildings - one housing attorneys and the other the Home Federal Savings Bank - between Wareham and the County Administration Building.

"It is a building that came on the market and is attractive and fits into the long-range plans of the county," Commissioner Bert L. Iseminger said.

The county is considering moving some departments, possibly including Engineering and Permits and Inspections, into the building, County Administrator Rodney Shoop said.

The building purchase was discussed in closed session Tuesday. The commissioners voted to call a public hearing and asked Rohrer to do more specific analysis of building and renovation costs, Shoop said.

The building is attractive because of its price and proximity to the County Administration Building, Shoop said. It also would help the county meet future space needs, he said.

Wivell said he was opposed to a public hearing at this point. He wants to see a more thorough analysis of whether the county government needs to expand into a new building and if this is the best way to do it, he said.

The property is owned by JRE Properties. Its partners are Robert, Edward and Jane Cochran. The building has been in the Cochran family for several generations, Rohrer said.

Most of the tenants in Wareham are attorneys. If the county purchases the building, it would not kick out all of the tenants, Iseminger said. Instead it would first put county offices on the first floor, which is empty, he said.

Rent from the tenants probably would pay for most of the building's operating costs, Rohrer said.

As part of the purchase, the county also would obtain a 72-space parking deck behind the building, Rohrer said. That would provide parking space for the public and get some county cars off Washington Street, Iseminger said.

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