PALO PINTO – After several months of serious discussions, negotiations and inspections Palo Pinto County Commissioners on Monday pulled the trigger on acquiring the former Bank of America building in Mineral Wells in a property swap-plus-cash deal.
After a closed-door session Monday morning, Commissioner Jeff Fryer made a motion, seconded by Commissioner Gary Glover, to trade the Poston's Building on North Oak Avenue in downtown Mineral Wells for the former bank building on S.E. 6th Avenue east of downtown between S.E. 1st Avenue and East Hubbard Street, plus $1.3 million to its owner NSC Properties LP. The motion passed unanimously.
The $1.3 million cash, plus close to $600,000 in anticipated repairs, upgrades and remodeling expenses for the new local government center will come from $3 million in the county's current fiscal year budget for capital improvements, said County Judge Shane Long.
"These are funds that are already on hand," Long said. "We have been preparing for it."
The property arrangement is actually for $1.75 million, with commissioners selling the Poston's Building property for $450,000 for a net amount of $1.3 million to NSC Properties.
The deal is seen as accomplishing several things. First, the county has been looking for ways to ease crowding in the main courthouse and expand some offices, services and facilities. While Long points out the courthouse in Palo Pinto is not moving, closing or going away, county services currently provided in the Poston's Building will go to the new property, along with expansions of other county services and offices to Mineral Wells, where over half of the county's population reside.
County officials also see opportunities to work more closely with Mineral Wells officials and government as the city grows and revitalization progresses with hopes the city and county can find operational efficiencies, while offering the city opportunities to locate some services and offices in the new two-story county annex building.
Long said hopes are to have the new site operational by this fall. Glover said he hopes early and regular voting for the November 2020 elections can take place in the new county building.
Recently the county considered expanding county offices to the educational building at Dempsey Heliport, just east of Palo Pinto, at a cost of $4 million. Officials also looked at building a new two-story law enforcement center for an estimated $8 million.
"This opportunity came available and it made a lot more sense than the other two options that were available," the judge said. "That was some of the reasoning for our doing this project. It's a better value, for sure, and a better location."
"I just don't think the county is going to be able to purchase another building at this price, in the same area, for what this building probably really is worth to the county," said Fryer. "My goal is to have the county and the city in that building."
Commissioner Mike Pierce agreed.
"The county is going to continue to grow for the next 10 years, 15 or 20 years," he said. "It is mostly looking into the future, heading in that direction."
Building repairs and updates are among those identified by the city when it proposed acquiring the property in 2017 through a bond package for $5 million, including a $1.1 million purchase price and $3.25 million in construction costs.
The building at that time was owned by Rajhasthan Investments LLC, of Dallas, which had owned and operated the property since 1992. Mineral Wells voters rejected the proposal.
Several months after the failed bond proposal, NSC Properties acquired the property.
NSC Properties is owned by commercial and residential property investors Randy and Misty Nix, who are behind a number of improvements and projects in downtown Mineral Wells including the historic restorations of the Crazy Water and Baker hotels, along with other properties that have brought about new businesses such as The Market @ 76067, Coffee and Cocktails and Downtown Cantina, among others.
The city's downtown redevelopment master plan called for relocating the county annex from the Poston's Building to an area outside the envisioned downtown hospitality, tourism, restaurant and retail district.
Randy Nix said he does not know what might go into the Poston's Building. Current county offices there include a motor vehicle registration office, Justice of the Peace Precinct 5 offices and courtroom, Pct. 5 County Constable and the county's juvenile probation department. Also located there is a collection and display of local history maintained by Historic Mineral Wells.
County offices will continue to operate in the Poston's Building until the new county building is ready for occupation later this year.
Encompassing 29,302 square feet, the Palo Pinto Appraisal District valued the former bank building for taxing purposes at $789,350. The property includes a large parking lot on the west side and a smaller parking area on the east side of the building.
County officials understand they will need to budget for additional facility operating expenses in the larger building. Long quipped he was glad the county on Monday approved a seven-year electric services provider contract with MP2 Energy that locks in an electricity killowatt rate about half of the county's current rate.