January 20, 2021

Sale of annex building on hold until end of January

Front Porch is pursuing another grant to fund renovation project

Supervisors decided Tuesday to wait until their contract expires with Front Porch Development at the end of January before putting the annex building up for sale again.

Originally, the private development group proposed the county’s annex building — which was added to Preservation Iowa’s list of endangered properties earlier this year — could be renovated into downtown housing units, presenting the Jasper County Board of Supervisors with a $15,000 bid in June.

However, the sale was contingent on Fairmount Development receiving a grant or substantial funds to pay for the project. Brandon Talsma, chair of the Jasper County Board of Supervisors, revealed the developer’s grant application was unsuccessful. It was presumed the developer was no longer interested.

Further discussion amongst supervisors, the county auditor and JEDCO Executive Director Jeff Davidson indicated there may yet be another grant for the developer to pursue. Even though supervisors want to get the “ball rolling” on selling the building as quickly as possible, they also want to honor their contract.

Front Porch Development still has the option to purchase until its contract with the county expires. Davidson said the development group is confident of its chances with the new grant application, which is likely why the option to purchase has not been terminated yet.

Regardless, Jasper County Auditor Dennis Parrott questioned giving putting in an option to buy in anything the county sells “because the public has the opportunity to buy it at any time.” Promising a buyer they can have the property at a later date “kind of runs contrary to the public being able to have all the options.”

Parrott added, “That sounds like it runs counter to public access, public ownership. It’s the public that owns the building — not the board of supervisors, not the auditor.” The county auditor also said he doesn’t care either way, but argued it is something the supervisors should be careful of in the future.

If annex building is not purchased by the end of January, Parrott said the county should follow the legal procedures of putting the sale out for bid and setting a deadline for proposals.

Some Jasper County employees will be moving from the annex building to offices in the former NewCare Health Services clinic, 315 W. Third St. N. The building was purchased by the board of supervisors for $616,093 in October 2019. The condition of the annex building has been steadily declining over the years.

In 2017, the annex building tested positive for airborne mold spores. Staff in Jasper County Public Health moved to a temporary office space at 116 W. Fourth St. S. that same year. One year later, the supervisors moved forward with waterproofing repairs to the annex building’s exterior foundation.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com