City Tashma Hall

What is it with Mayors? Seems like most of our local county and city mayors past and present have this thing about bigger offices. Former county mayor, Doyle Arp's first agenda after elected was to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to expand the county office building. Current county mayor, Estelle Herron asked for but was denied hundreds of thousands of dollars to expand the county office building shortly after elected.

Current Lenoir City Mayor, Tony Aikens, is leading the charge to really expand the city's official foot print at the cost of three quarters of a million dollars. But the grand poobah of mayors who wanted to expand is without a doubt former Lenoir City mayor Matt Brookshire. Brookshire, with the help of a supporting council, spent more than 2.2 million dollars in his visions of grandeur for a new city hall. All for nothing.

Back in 08, Lenoir City officials, led by Brookshire, embarked on a process to build a new city hall down town. Property was bought/condemned and cleared of all the structures on the block and a half area that was to be the new hall. When it was all said and done, the city had spent more than 2.2 million of tax payer's money on the project. This does not include all the revenue lost in property taxes and sales taxes from the former businesses located on the property and the interest paid to date on the loan..

The property now sits vacant. But not to despair. At some point soon, LCUB will buy the vacant property from the city for a future new LCUB office complex. This is the only way the city can get out from under the debt incurred by the previous mayor and council. In essence, LCUB rate payers will bail out LC tax payers. The only worry is, will the LCUB power board go along with the Lenoir City council's plan? Let's see, the power board and the council are the same people. I bet the plan passes.  

I have been a supporter of city offices needing more space ever since Brookshire wobbled down the crazy path of building the new city hall down town. I always thought they should move to 321. The current city hall is totally inadequate and it would cost far too much to make the need upgrades on the current building. City departments are scattered all over town. The police department one place, parks and recreation in another place.

Enter current Lenoir City mayor, Tony Aikens. The new plan, buy the old Suntrust building on Hwy. 321 for the new city hall. The bank building is four stories with some 20,000 sq. ft. It's big enough to house current city offices three or four times over. But according to the mayor and council, the price of $750,000.00 is just too good to pass up. That may or may not be true.

If a man wanted to sell me an elephant for twenty dollars, that would be a great deal. A whole elephant for just twenty dollars. How could I pass a deal that great? I would probably never get another chance for a twenty dollar elephant again in my life. Problem is, I don't need an elephant no matter what a great deal it is.

I'm sure the idea of a giant building for a city hall is enticing and from all accounts the deal is already done. But you have to ask, is it really a good deal? The building is thirty years old. The upkeep and utilities would have to be extremely expensive and does the building really fit the needs of the city? There will have to be a lot of remodeling to make it work for city services.

Could it possibly be better if the city built a new building that would better conform to the city's needs? Initial costs might be a little higher but then they would be starting with new and a facility built to suit.

Currently the Suntrust building is owned by Southeast STB Portfolio of Atlanta Georgia. According to county records the property is apprised at $1,660,000.00. The property currently pays approximately, $9,500.00 and $7,100.00 in county and city property taxes respectively. The last registered sale of the property was in 2007 when it sold for $308,040.00, again according to county records. 

This is not the first time city officials have looked at buying an obsolete bank building. Back in 2008, former LCUB manager, Fred Nelson, proposed to buy the down town First National Bank building for the utilities. That deal never materialized. There must be a reason banks want to get rid of their old big  buildings. 

I know the mayor and all the councilmen are patting themselves on the back for getting such a great deal. But sometimes a good deal isn't always a good deal. All that glitters is not gold.