By TOM GIAMBRONI
LISBON - Columbiana County commissioners are planning to demolish the old county welfare agency building, if the price is right.
Commissioners on Wednesday voted 3-0 to seek formal bids to demolish the county annex No. 1 on Nelson Avenue that housed the county Department of Job and Family Services until the JFS relocated to the new county government services building in May.
"We're going to see how much it will cost to tear that building down," explained Commissioner Jim Hoppel. Whether they proceed will depend on the costs, which could be quite expensive, depending on how much asbestos removal is involved.
The annex building is believed to have been constructed in the 1950s, and over the years served as a home for various businesses. The JFS moved into the building in the late 1970s and remained there until this year.
The county government services building was constructed to provide a new home for the JFS because of the annex's deteriorated condition. Hoppel and Commissioner Mike Halleck said it is in even worse shape than originally believed and cannot be used in its current condition.
Halleck said some have suggested finding new tenants for the building but he believes it would take hundreds of thousands of dollars to get it into the kind of shape needed to be reoccupied, not to mention the high utility costs.
"There's not a lot of interest in keeping it as an ongoing enterprise. It's just too costly to operate," he said.
Hoppel said the only other alternative is to let the building sit empty and deteriorate. "In a period of time it could become a hazard, so, depending on the bids, we may want to tear it down," he said.
Halleck said before he thought it would cost $70,000 to $80,000 to raze the building, which is significantly cheaper than rehabilitating it. "This lot is frankly worth more than the building is worth," he said.
By razing the building, the county would be creating a vacant lot where a new structure could be constructed, Hoppel said. He pointed to the former Carl Building on South Market Street that was purchased by commissioners and later torn down, with the new county Emergency Management Agency being built on the site.
Commissioners said before if they decide to demolish the building, the funds to do so would come from some of the proceeds received for leasing county property for shale gas development.
Someone in the audience suggested commissioners consider finding a company to demolish the building in exchange for keeping the salvageable materials, and Halleck indicated he might do that. He said they are also looking at selling the building's heating system.