County Readies Move Into First American Building

Five-year lease will cost county $5,910 per month

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The county will move some of its offices into the First American Title building next month after a tough lease negotiation that at one point neared a “deal breaker,” county officials said Tuesday.

The five-year lease county supervisors approved Tuesday will cost $5,910 each month, with 40 percent of the first year’s rent funneled toward a possible purchase. The percentage decreases slightly each year.

Public Works Director Steve Stratton said he originally proposed that the county place 90 percent of each month’s rent for the entire lease term toward the eventual purchase price.

The building’s owners did not like that arrangement, and instead proposed 10 percent. Stratton told them that would be a “deal breaker,” and finagled the final agreement.

“I don’t feel I could go back and get a better deal,” Stratton said.

Supervisor Mike Pastor said he thought the new building would boost staff morale with its professional working environment.

“This is the best bang for the buck,” he said.

The multi-year contemplation of expanded facilities reached a crescendo in February when Judge Peter Cahill told supervisors that his patience was evaporating. The downstairs probation offices are so tiny that employees bump into each other in the hallways, he said previously.

If the county decides to buy First American, it would need another appraisal since the 2007 appraisal of $985,000 is likely $100,000 too high for this market, said a local Realtor who the county contracted with during the facilities search. An appraisal would cost $5,000.

Supervisor Tommie Martin said she would like to see the county lease the building for a year or two before re-evaluating the county’s finances and figuring out a next step.

“I would hate to see us tie money up in this building,” she said. “There are other things we could use that money for.” Mainly, expanding the female jail facilities, which county officials say are extremely crowded.

The District 1 supervisor’s office, planning and zoning, and several other departments in the same quadrant upstairs on the county’s existing Beeline Highway complex will move to the First American Title building next month. Offices are expected to open April 6.

Payson probation offices, which Deputy County Manager John Nelson has said now uses “bunk desks” will expand upstairs.

About $70,000 has been budgeted for renovating the First American building, which mostly includes outfitting technology and servers.

However, Stratton said he thinks the renovations will finish $10,000 under budget.

Minor modifications upstairs at the existing county facility, completed mostly by county employees, will take roughly one month. Stratton said probation will likely move in the first week of May.

After that, the court downstairs could be modified. The cost for that is still unknown, Stratton said. The money would come from the general fund.

The unanimous vote to approve the final lease agreement with First American marked the end of a long discussion, during which the Womans Club on Main Street periodically appeared to be the front-runner. The club even voted to allow a county lease of the building.

At the meeting where supervisors, in a split vote with Martin opposed, approved a move to First American Title, Payson community leaders including the mayor appeared on behalf of the Womans Club. They said county offices on Main Street would help revitalize the area.

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