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Jefferson debates whether to sell property or spend thousands to fix it
The Direct Supply Company building on College Street is going to cost Jefferson officials nearly $200,000 to rehabilitate. - photo by BRANDEE A. THOMAS

After years of not receiving the proper TLC, a city-owned building is causing the Jefferson City Council to take a closer look at its finances.

The building in question is located at 55 College St. and is currently being leased by Direct Supply Co. Inc.

The current lease expires at the end of this year. Direct Supply officials approached the city about purchasing the property for $75,000.

For the past several months, city officials have been simultaneously mulling over the offer and also researching the possibility of continuing to lease the building.

The board recently voted to not sell the property, but that decision is not without cost. While the property can serve as a source of residual income, it also needs a number of costly repairs.

Among other things, the city will have to foot the bill for repairing the roof and exterior masonry and also waterproofing the building’s foundation.

According to City Manager John Ward, the repairs could cost the city around $100,800.

"The repairs don’t have to be done at one time," said Bosie Griffith, council member.

"With the budget like it is, it really needs to be done in phases."

To cover the cost of repairs, in addition to existing city debts, officials may possibly have to dip into the city’s emergency fund. Doing that would potentially decrease those coffers by around 50 percent, which could mean higher taxes for residents.

"If the money that has been saved to weather the current economic downturn and to pay for the next two years’ increases in debt payments is used for large, unbudgeted projects, then a millage rate increase may be necessary as early as FY 2010," Ward wrote in a memo to the city council.

"I am afraid that with (debt payment) increases and decreases in revenues due to the economy, that if we add such large, unbudgeted projects that we may face financial difficulties. I know that we can not afford to do all the work at once, but the longer we wait, the worse the damage and the higher probability that costs will begin to increase."

Currently, the rent from leasing the building, around $10,000 annually, is used to help fund the Crawford W. Long Museum.

"If the rent money is used to pay the reserve fund back, it would take 10 years. In addition, we would have to reduce the (museum’s) projected revenue," Ward said.

"We would also need to begin budgeting an approximate minimum of $3,000 for maintenance so that the building does not get into this shape again and to safeguard the investment. If this amount is factored in, it would take approximately 15 years to pay back the reserve fund."