By MARINA WATERS
The Washington County Election Commission will have a new voting location to try out this year.
The Washington County Commission approved a resolution to lease the former Ace Hardware building on Jackson Boulevard for one year as a voting location for the upcoming election. The resolution passed in a 9-5 vote.
The original one-year cost was set at $95,292, but, according to the resolution, Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy “negotiated with the property owner who reduced the price to $77,500 for the year, to be paid in monthly amounts of $6,459.” The landlord, Grandy said, also agreed to allow the $77,500 to apply to the purchase price should the county later opt to buy the building.
“The budget committee asked me to negotiate with the owner of the building which he most graciously did,” Grandy said. “We reduced that one-year lease to $75,000.”
Some commissioners felt that even with the reduced price, $75,000 was still too much for a building the county would only use for part of the year. Commissioner Phil Carriger said he felt some “heartburn” with that price, while Freddie Malone and Jodi Jones said they felt the one-year lease was a short-term solution for a long-term problem.
“That’s my concern, that we’re only addressing a short-term issue and not more of a long-term one,” Malone said. “As a short-term solution, it seems like an expensive one.”
Chairman Greg Matherly said he felt the issue was related more to time than anything else at the moment.
“Time is drawing nigh,” Matherly said. “We are running out of time. I was in the courthouse today and it was very busy and the first thing I saw was election training downstairs. Always, when you saw that sign for the election workers to be coming to train, you knew the election was getting close. That brought it even more to my attention. We really don’t have an optimal plan other than the current plans that we have.”
Malone asked if there were future plans for an election commission building. Matherly said in 2006 there were such plans, but that plan is “somewhat aged” and the cost would be “uncertain.” He also said any future plans to put the election commission office at the former Ace Hardware building or across the street on Jackson Boulevard would probably need to be discussed by the election commission.
Jones also asked if the county and the election commission could better improve its communications with the election commission to better “follow their work” and provide assistance where needed. Matherly added the that the hope is to also continue to discuss the election commission’s voting location issue.
“My hope is we can bring something back to be considered before coming budget year,” Matherly said.