The City of Ravenswood will soon be headquartered in a new municipal building valued at more than $1 million but will only pay half of the asking price, according to Mayor Josh Miller.
The Jackson County Development Authority is purchasing the former BB&T Branch for $500,000. The original list price on the property was $997,000, and the building’s assessed value was over $1 million, Miller said.
“It’s a million-dollar building, easy,” Miller said. “We’re getting it for half that.”
The development authority will enter into a 10-year lease-purchase agreement with the city. This cooperative approach was the process recommended by the city attorney, Miller said. Working with development authorities on lease-purchase agreements is common practice for most municipalities, he said.
The city will pay $25,000 down and then make a recurring payment to the development authority as part of the agreement, which will have to be approved by the city council before becoming final, Miller said.
The city won't need to use the third floor of the bank building, which creates an opportunity to generate revenue that can help pay the lease, Miller said.
“We’re hoping to rent that space to give us more money to pay toward the principal so we can potentially pay it off even sooner,” Miller said.
Miller said there has been a lot of misinformation circulating on social media about the purchase of the building. Internet posters who do not have all the information have even been speculating on price tag amounts well over what the city will actually be paying. One thread on Facebook included a poster who seemed certain the city would be paying $750,000 for the building.
It’s been frustrating, Miller said, because he wanted to divulge the correct information, but that isn’t possible when the price is being negotiated. In this case, Miller said, the city negotiated an incredible deal.
“There’s a reason you respect the negotiation process because you don’t want to be undercut and you don't want to give out information when it isn’t finalized,” Miller said. “There were a lot of rumors going around. It was frustrating not to be able to comment, but you have to be responsible about releasing information at the appropriate time. That’s what you’re elected to do.”
Back in January, the city officials learned the building would become vacant in early spring.
“Immediately, we thought that would be a good fit for a potential city hall,” Miller said.
This wasn’t a hasty decision, Miller said. The city had previously looked at other potential sites for a new city hall, including the old middle school on Sycamore Street, because there are problems with the current municipal building, including a lack of parking, inadequate office space, and areas that are not accessible for individuals with special needs.
This move would allow the city to bring all of its departments under one roof, Miller said. The Ravenswood Police Department will be able to move out of the Ravenswood Fire Station, giving the fire department a little more room to breathe.
“It’s up to city council in terms of exactly how we roll this out, but it’s our intention to give the fire department their building back. The fire department actually gave part of that building to the city for the police department. I think it’s the right thing to do to give that facility back to the fire department,” Miller said.
The BB&T building will be much more accessible for the general public. If all goes well, citizens should even be able to use the former bank drive-through to pay their city bills, Miller said.
“Having all the departments on a centralized campus will be extremely efficient. It’s a two-acre piece of property and it has excellent parking. This is my opinion and everyone is entitled to their own, but I think this is one of the best moves the city can make outside building a marina,” Miller said.
The old building can be placed into surplus and auctioned off, or it could become a new home for a local non-profit organization, Miller said.
Miller said the city is in a good financial position to make the purchase.
“The city is in good standing because we’ve watched what we’ve been spending. We have had revenue increases, and, by the way, that’s not from increasing taxes. Our expenditures are below projections. We’re managing our money correctly. We have enough in CDs that, even if there was a downturn, we would be OK for quite some time. We’re being conservative, but when we have an opportunity like this to grow, that’s what we want to do,” Miller said.