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County won't buy Wareham Building

June 15, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

The Washington County Commissioners decided Tuesday not to buy a downtown Hagerstown building for $635,000.

The commissioners held a public hearing last week on a proposal to buy the 24,000-square-foot Wareham Building at 138 W. Washington St. There are two buildings between the Wareham and the County Administration Building.

Nobody other than commissioners and county employees spoke last week or Tuesday on the idea of buying and renovating the 1930s-era Wareham building, which has four stories and a basement.

The $635,000 cost included a two-level, 72-space parking deck.

Public Works Director Gary Rohrer estimated it would cost $1.1 million to renovate the building. That, coupled with the purchase price, would bring to $1.7 million the expense the county would incur.

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Commissioner John L. Schnebly said it would be wise of the commissioners to buy and renovate the building because it would provide needed space, be at a convenient location and cost less than leasing space elsewhere.

There was no second to Schnebly's motion to buy the building. A motion must be seconded to go to a vote.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook rejected a suggestion by County Administrator Rodney Shoop that the commissioners officially vote not to buy the building.

Rohrer and Shoop said they need guidance from the County Commissioners about how to deal with space needs as departments outgrow the current facility.

The Wareham building would have solved space needs for 10 years, Rohrer said.

Washington County Commissioners Paul L. Swartz and William J. Wivell had said they opposed buying the building but Snook had not stated his opinion.

Commissioner Bert Iseminger could not vote on renovation and purchase of the building due to a possible conflict of interest. He is a property/casualty insurance agent with J. Edward Cochran & Co., which is run by Ed Cochran, one of three partners of JRE Properties, which owns the building.

Under the purchase proposal, the county would have moved some departments to the first floor of the Wareham. Rent from the current tenants, mostly lawyers, was expected to pay for operating costs.

Shoop said the acquisition of the building would have helped solve some problems caused by planned renovations at the Washington County District Court and Washington County Circuit Court buildings. Some county and state offices will be relocated, at least temporarily, during the renovations, he said.

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