The Lafayette County Board of Supervisors recently approved the $400,000 purchase of the RBJ Investments Building in Darlington (previously Badgerland Financial) at their regular meeting held on Tuesday, Jan. 27.
The county plans to move the Human Services Department, Commission on Aging and the Veterans Officer, which are currently housed in the Darlington Municipal Building through a lease agreement with the city of Darlington, to the newly purchased building.
The decision evoked some concern from several board members, as well as city officials.
Dave Breunig, Darlington mayor, was in attendance at the county board meeting with city alderperson, Don Osterday.
“I question what will be saved by the taxpayer if the county buys this building,” said Breunig, who pointed out the advantage of having the several county departments just across the street, in close proximity to the courthouse, as well as the convenience to employees of having Darlington Daycare in the same building.
“There’s also the matter of security,” added Breunig. “If anything were to happen should they need it, the police are right downstairs and that’s something you won’t have up there.”
Breunig also noted that he believed the county had a good deal with the city regarding their current lease agreement, which in 2015 will be a cost of $62,505, which includes $2,400 for parking lot maintenance.
According to Darlington City Clerk/Treasurer, Phil Risseeuw, the lease between the county and the city was originally created by Gil Barnard, an attorney that represented Lafayette County at that time, and was designed to be a cost sharing of the building operating costs, which can be adjusted each year based on the previous year’s actual operating expenses.
The city of Darlington pays the entire operating cost of the building and Lafayette County reimburses the city for the cost of the operating expenses for their portion of the building, which is what the lease amount is based on.
Risseeuw noted that according to the lease agreement there is 33,200 square feet of rentable area in the municipal building, 10,504 square feet of which is used by Lafayette County. That is equal to 31.60 percent of the area, so the county pays 31.60 percent of the actual operating cost of the building for the previous 12-month period as their rent.
County board chairman, Jack Sauer, noted the concerns of Breunig, but stated that he believes that purchasing a building will save the county money when looking at the bigger picture.
“Owning something versus renting is always for the best in the long run,” he said. “It might not seem like it’s much of a savings right now, but eventually it will pay off.”
Sauer also noted, that not only would the county be investing in a building they would own, but there would also be income coming in from a lease with the Department of Corrections, which recently entered into a five year lease agreement with the former owner of the RBJ Investments Building, Robert Jafari, for an average annual rent cost of $47,769.09, with a renewal option for an additional five years at an average annual rent of $41,368.90.
That lease agreement however, included an upcoming remodel, contracted with Bruce Geissbuhler, for the space that the Department of Corrections currently rents, and in order for the county to take on that lease agreement, they would also need to take up the cost of the already planned remodel in order to fulfill the terms of the lease. The offer to purchase that the county recently sent to the building owner, allowed a cost of up to $105,000 for that remodel.
During the board meeting a motion was made by Ted Wiegel to accept the resolution approving the purchase of the building and seconded by David Hammer. The resolution passed with a vote of 11-5 with supervisors Connie Hull, Bob Boyle, Carol Korn, Leon Wolfe and Wayne Larson voting against it.
The Lafayette County Building and Insurance Committee had approved sending an initial offer of purchase for the building on Dec. 22, 2014 to which they received a counter offer from the building’s owner. Then on Jan. 19, the Building and Insurance Committee approved making their own counter offer, which was recently accepted.
The accepted offer includes the purchase price of $400,000 as well as the buyout of the remodel contract with Bruce Geissbuhler for the space that the Department of Corrections rents, for up to a cost of $105,000 and a Right of First Refusal to purchase the property for a length of 20 years being granted to Jafari.
The county will also need to remodel the building’s basement in order to have enough space to completely house the departments they plan to move there.
At this point the cost of that remodel combined with the intended remodel for the Department of Corrections has been roughly estimated to be around $400,000, but the final cost for that will not be determined until the entire build out has been completed.