Lenoir takes step toward buying property for new city building

The Lenoir City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to approve the acquisition of an option to purchase land downtown as the first step in a plan to build a new combined city hall, fire and police headquarters.

The proposal authorizes the city to request a 60-day option to purchase 0.9 acres of property off Rock Springs Road at Grand Street for $178,000, with 5 percent earnest money provided to the owner.

Lenoir City Mayor Matt Brookshire presented the plan at a special meeting attended by council members, representatives of the fire and police departments and other members of city government.

"We've done all we can at this facility," Brookshire said, speaking about the current City Hall building.

The proposed facility would allow the combination of all city government offices and fire and police departments at one site with adequate parking and room to grow in the future, he explained.

"We've looked at several options, and this piece of property seems to fit our needs best. If we are serious about completing this plan within the next two or three years, we have to start to acquire the property," Brookshire said.

The piece of property would provide only about 25 percent of the land needed for the proposed facility, but it offers the chance to get a foothold on the desired land, said Lenoir City Police Chief Donald White, who is a member of the exploratory committee assigned by the mayor to examine growth options for the new municipal buildings.

White said the property is desirable and that if the city did not move to acquire the land, it could end up paying more for it after it is sold.

Vice Mayor Douglas Hines said he was concerned that only four of six city council members were at the meeting to vote for the plan. Hines also said he was concerned that once the city had committed to the property, the owners of adjacent properties would raise the price of their land.

"We're going to have to pay a premium for the rest of the land anyway," Hines said. "Don't you think that they're going to jack the price up after they know the city is interested in it?"

The total cost of the proposed facility is expected to be announced when the committee completes its work and presents it to the council in March, White said.