Com­mis­sion­ers to buy Morse Road build­ing

The Columbus Dispatch - - Metro&state - By Kim­ball Perry @kim­ballperry

One the sec­ond day of early vot­ing for this fall’s elec­tion, Franklin County com­mis­sion­ers dis­cussed buy­ing the build­ing where the county Board of Elec­tions is lo­cated.

The county has planned to buy the build­ing on Morse Road since it be­gan ren­o­vat­ing the for­mer depart­ment store for the elec­tions board in 2013, Com­mis­sioner John O’Grady said. It’s where bal­lots and vot­ing ma­chines are stored and where early vot­ing takes place.

“We would al­ways pre­fer to own,” O’Grady said, “es­pe­cially with that type of ac­tiv­ity go­ing on.”

In 2013, the Board of Elec­tions was at 280 E. Broad St., Down­town, but of­fi­cials wanted more space, park­ing and ac­cess for vot­ers. That’s when they saw a va­cant Kohl’s depart­ment store at 1700 Morse Road, just east of In­ter­state 71, and de­cided to move the board and its bal­lot print­ing fa­cil­ity there.

In a lease-to-own agree­ment, Franklin County spent $10 mil­lion to ren­o­vate the build­ing — built into the build­ing were ex­tra se­cu­rity mea­sures to safe­guard bal­lots and the elec­tion process — and paid $2.2 mil­lion in rent. Now, it plans to spend $7.5 mil­lion to buy the build­ing. The to­tal cost to tax­pay­ers is $19.7 mil­lion. The Board of Elec­tions has oc­cu­pied it since Novem­ber 2014.

Franklin County holds an op­tion to buy af­ter three years. It also owned a ware­house on Alum Creek Drive when the board was Down­town.

The 90,000-square-foot for­mer Kohl’s build­ing’s most im­por­tant as­set is typ­i­cal to real es­tate — lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion.

“It’s right off the in­ter­state, right off a ma­jor thor­ough­fare and has lots of (free) park­ing,” O’Grady said Thurs­day. It also is on a bus line.

Last year, 90,000 res­i­dents voted at that build­ing, said Jim Good­e­now, di­rec­tor of the county’s Pub­lic Fa­cil­i­ties Man­age­ment.

“It’s so much more ac­ces­si­ble for peo­ple to get up there,” Com­mis­sioner Mar­i­lyn Brown said.

More of the county pop­u­la­tion, O’Grady added, lives closer to the Morse Road build­ing than the old board build­ing Down­town.

“It’s turned out to be re­ally good,” O’Grady said.

Com­mis­sion­ers are ex­pected to ap­prove the pur­chase at Tues­day’s meet­ing. Good­e­now be­lieves the trans­ac­tion will be com­pleted this month.

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