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Va. man buys Berkeley County government building at auction

February 14, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

A Berryville, Va., man on Wednesday bought a Berkeley County government building at auction for $500,000.

"I've been looking at it for a couple months now," Vince Petti said after County Commissioner Ronald K. Collins agreed to Petti's winning bid for the three-story brick building at 205 E. King St.

The pending sale, which is expected to be finalized in 30 days, comes after Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny Arvon in December indicated his interest in buying the property for the Berkeley County Board of Education, reportedly for the $750,000 that the county had offered to sell it for.

Petti said a limited liability company would be formed to take ownership of the property and adjoining parking lot, which formerly accommodated the Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney's office, state family court facilities and the American Red Cross.

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"Taking today's market conditions on property into consideration, I got my bottom line," Collins said of the sale, which he initially indicated through auctioneer Darwin Plumlee wasn't going to be accepted.

Petti was one of five registered bidders for the sale, according to Theresa Hockman, who partnered with Plumlee to auction the property in about 20 minutes.

Plumlee opened bidding at $1 million before retreating when no bids materialized. Bidding eventually began at $300,000, which Collins said was about $8,000 more than the county still owed on the property it purchased more than a dozen years ago. The property was appraised for $1.6 million last year, Plumlee said.

The sale still must be approved by the Berkeley County Building Commission, which holds the title to county property, Collins said.

Petti said he didn't know what the building's future use will be, adding he was "open for suggestions."

Proceeds from the sale will be used to assist with debt payments for the county's new government complex off South Raleigh, West Stephen and South streets, Collins said.

The property was one of five surplus properties that the county originally planned to have auctioned in November 2007.

At the first auction, Collins did not allow the East King Street property to be sold for less than $300,000 and no bids were received that met that amount. Plumlee at the time said $300,000 was the county's minimum sale price, but Collins later refuted discussion of that dollar figure, noting the county couldn't sell it for less than it paid, which was $600,000.

If Wednesday's sale is finalized, only Berkeley County's historic courthouse and two neighboring buildings in the 100 block of West King Street will remain in county hands near Martinsburg's town square at King and Queen streets.

Collins on Wednesday hinted that the county might orchestrate another real estate sale in the near future, but declined to elaborate, citing the sensitivity of the matter.

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