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editorial - herald- 2/21/01

February 20, 2001

Leasing new government center one option for Berkeley County



The Berkeley County, W.Va. government has a fine assortment of historic buildings. Unfortunately, they seem to have outlived their usefulness as far as housing government employees is concerned. The question is how to find useable space without spending a fortune for it. Fortunately, there are a couple of possibilities that come to mind.

The latest bad news came last week when the Berkeley County Commission learned that there's a bad leak in the roof of the county administrative building at 126 W. King St. The estimate for roof repairs is $25,000.

That might not be so bad, except that the roof is only one problem with the building, which has mold and other air-related problems that have employees complaining and the county running air cleaners constantly to take care of the situation.

Just for this fix - the roof and a new system to deal with the air problems - would cost $35,000, while a true makeover of the building would cost $200,000. That's more than the building is worth, the commissioners believe - and not a bargain, considering they also have a "bad air" building at 110 W. King St.

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In February the commission appointed a 27-member committee to study possible construction of a new government building, which might be a judicial center. We would hope that group is looking at a couple of other possibilities as well.

After determining what a new building would cost, renovation of the existing space might seem more reasonable. In either case, the committee should look at the option of having the new building owned by a third party, which would lease it to the county.

Major maintenance problems would be the leasing company's responsibility, just as they are in shopping centers. To give future boards flexibility, the current county government could negotiate a clause allowing the county to buy out the lease.

As we said, keeping the old space may prove more economical, but the county board shouldn't kid itself about the fact that historic buildings require a great deal of maintenance that newer construction doesn't.

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