By a split vote on Wednesday, the Somerset County commissioners instructed solicitor Daniel Rullo to draft an agreement of sale for a 6,775-square-foot building that would be used as a storage facility.
If the proposed deal is ultimately approved, the county would purchase the structure, located on a little more than three acres at 134 Chickentown Road in Somerset, for $155,000. The building, owned by Phillip Parker, was the former home of a motorcycle sales shop.
Pamela Tokar-Ickes and John Vatavuk supported giving the go-ahead. Joe Betta voted in opposition.
Betta feels other options were not explored thoroughly enough.
“The purchase of that building violates every basic principle of good management,” he said. “We’ve gone for a few years. It’s been perfectly fine with that other building. We did not complete our due diligence when it comes to looking for a place closer. We’ve had no one research it and we haven’t had anybody take a look at options. Why it suddenly becomes an abrupt priority requirement is a mystery to me, and I strongly oppose the purchase of that building.”
Tokar-Ickes countered by saying this is the fourth or fifth option the commissioners have explored when looking for a place to store maintenance equipment. According to Tokar-Ickes, board members considered constructing a new building, purchasing several other privately owned structures or using a county-owned hangar at the Somerset County Airport.
“I would, respectfully, say that this is a project that we’ve been talking about,” she said. “We certainly do need a location to house the things that our maintenance department needs. I think that this is a good location and a very solid option.”
Betta questioned why the hangar was not being used for storage.
“We actually purchased the hangar, which, we all agreed, was certainly within the county’s best interest to do so. ... That actually is the location where we’re now looking at potentially locating an emergency helicopter service out of our airport,” Tokar-Ickes said.
The Parker property is within two miles of the county’s main campus.
“Like your closets at home, we’ll clean out the closets here, move the things that we don’t need in direct storage to that location and have the things that we need readily available to us here at the county campus,” said Tokar-Ickes.
Approval of the sale is pending a confirmation of fair market value by the county’s assessment office.
Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Dave_Sutor.