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Princeton Arts Center lease agreement in works

During their March meeting, Washington County commissioners were expected to consider a lease agreement between the county and the City of Johnson City for its continued use of the county-owned Princeton Arts Center, 2516 E. Oakland Ave., Johnson City.
Members of the County-Owned Property Committee unanimously approved the recommendation earlier this month after authorizing Mayor Dan Eldridge to submit a proposed lease agreement to City Manager Pete Peterson in February.
A letter from Assistant City Manager Charles Stahl notified Eldridge the Johnson City Board of Commissioners approved the lease during its Feb. 21 meeting.
According to Stahl, the city views the building as a viable and important part of Johnson City’s Parks and Recreation Department, and anticipates its continued use. In addition, the Parks and Recreation Department plans to address and invest in a variety of maintenance needs.
Structural issues with one of the building’s walls, along with gutter problems and an aging roof, are what spurred the committee to take action.
While the building is owned by Washington County, the city has used it for years to offer classes through its Parks and Recreation Department.
The Princeton Arts Center recently appraised for $150,000. There was talk of declaring the property surplus and selling it, which would save the county the cost of insurance coverage for a building it is not using.
At the very least, Eldridge wanted a formal agreement in place regarding the operations and responsibilities for insurance and maintenance.
A lease agreement between the city and county signed in 1976 was located, though there was disagreement between the entities on whether it expired at the end of the five-year term.
The new lease is for one year, with liability insurance coverage being required rather than a rental payment. As the lessee, Johnson City also is responsible for utilities, and maintenance and repair of the interior and exterior portions of the building
Washington County will continue to use the building as a polling location for elections.
While the building was offered for sale to the city at one point, Eldridge does not see negatives in retaining ownership. “From the county’s perspective, it’s an asset on the books with no debt that is being offered as a service to the community,” he said.