Once again, supervisors have pushed making a decision on the potential purchase of the Moore Building.
Following last week’s public hearing, in which the purchase received overwhelming support from speakers, supervisors decided to delay voting on the matter until this week due to the absence of supervisor Kevin McGhee.
The historic Main Street property currently houses the tourism and economic development department, the visitor center and the Literacy Council of Madison County. Space is also used in the building for a variety of meetings by organizations and county committees including the Madison Chamber of Commerce and Madison County Planning Commission Subcommittees. The 6,200 square foot building is currently leased by the county, which actually used to own it, and space is subleased to the literacy council. The lease ends Dec. 31, 2019.
Current owner Kenneth Moore purchased the building from the county in 2001 for $25,000. According to supervisors it was in terrible shape and has since been renovated by Moore. It is rented to the county for $1,408.38 per month. The county has the option to purchase the building for $250,000 with 4.5 percent interest over 15 years and $20,000 down.
Past inspections uncovered various issues including slight roof repair needs, rotted window sills, sidewalk cracks, cracked windows, and a hot water extension pipe in need of replacement. Many of those items have already been fixed by Moore. The building also has mold and some structural issues with a structural engineer report suggesting a replacement of the east wall of the building, repointing and sealing the west and south walls and replacing half of the floor and roof framing.
In an email dated Dec. 4, Moore said he’ll stop the water infiltration through the rear wall and reinforce several floor joists in the basement.
Still, supervisor Charlotte Hoffman was not convinced. Hoffman has been vocal in her opposition against the purchase, stating the county doesn’t need any more real estate and that the building is in a deplorable condition. She suggested moving the offices currently housed in the Moore Building down Main Street to the Arcade. That space is currently leased by the Madison County Historical Society and is also used by various community groups and the Rappahannock Rapidan Community Services Board to provide services.
“If we’re not going to use the Arcade, then sell that,” Hoffman said. “We have a $5-6 million radio project, [the Madison Primary School] renovation project. The county doesn’t need to burden itself in real estate we don’t need.”
Some speakers felt differently.
Realtor Kevin McHaney advocated for the purchase of the building.
“I believe we do need the real estate,” he said. “The county itself is in much better shape if it’s paying for its own buildings [instead of] paying someone else. With tourism, we don’t want to be willy nilly about moving it. It brings people in for businesses.”
Early Mountain Director of Marketing Aileen Sevier agreed.
“Tourism is so critical,” she said. She said having the visitor center, which is certified, keeps local information circulating and is easily accessible.
Linda White Gile said the group Restore Madison, which helps those inflicted with and impacted by addiction, has met in the upper rooms of the Moore Building. She said the group Rachel’s Remnants, which builds a quilt that is then raffled off to benefit a mentoring program, has also used the space.
“It’s really a nice space for that,” she said. “The location is a benefit. I’d like to see it purchased.”
Richard Isner said he, too, supported the purchase.
“It puts the best foot forward with an office for the chamber and community and housing all of the [visitor center] material,” he said.
Douglas Dear, owner of Rose River Farm, voiced his support of the purchase via email.
Carlyle Weaver said he was also in favor of the purchase. He has done work in the building previously and stated that while inspection reports may have revealed some issues, due to the age of the building, it’s likely the same issues would be seen in other aged local buildings. He said even with a few things needing to be done, the county can’t beat the price being offered. However, he said he’d like to see the county get rid of the Thrift Road property.
Planning commissioner Mike Fisher, who submitted a comment in writing, agreed noting that the building shouldn’t be purchased unless the county guaranteed it would put the Thrift Road property on the market within one year.
Supervisor elect Carty Yowell also favored getting rid of the Thrift Road property.
“We need a vibrant downtown,” he said. “This location helps with foot traffic and it’s next door to Beasley Park. Dispose of [the] Thrift Road [property].”
Supervisor Jonathon Weakley said he has concerns about the moisture issues in the basement of the Moore Building, but said those could likely be mitigated. He said he’d like to see the ABC Building, which currently houses some sheriff’s department functions, go. He also suggested making additional improvements to the Moore Building should the county purchase it.
“If we vote to approve this, go so far as to put in an elevator,” he said. “Let’s do it right if we’re going to do it and make sure its pleasing and useful.”
He suggested bringing in someone to ensure any promised repairs are done to a satisfactory level and said public comment on the purchase is important.
“We’ve heard pros and cons,” he said. “This is a public acquisition and it’s important to hear from you the public. If you put this into square foot terms, it’s a good value.”
He also said there are transient occupancy tax (TOT) funds, which are comprised of visitor dollars spent in the county, which can help offset the purchase costs.
Supervisor Amber Foster asked what the backup plan would be if the offices currently in the Moore Building were moved.
“If we’re going to move out, no one has proposed a plan,” she said. “The Arcade hasn’t been looked at.”
Meanwhile, citizen Donnie Aylor said he was against the purchase.
“You’re going to spend a bunch of money,” he said. “You don’t know anything about that building that’s about to fall down.”
Supervisors said they also heard from Carlton and Gail Harris who were against the purchase.
The supervisors were scheduled to vote on the matter Wednesday evening.