Buying bank building expands county space

Wednesday, March 2, 2011 11:57 PM
Journal/Sam Green
Montezuma County plans to purchase the First National Bank building.

Montezuma County has entered into a contract to purchase the First National Bank building located at 140 W. Main St.

The building has been on the market for the past 18 months, a result of First National’s decision to construct a new facility on the east side of town.

“We are executing a purchase agreement right now,” said County Administrator Ashton Harrison. “It is pretty much a done deal. We just have to go through all the title work.”

The county’s motivation for the purchase stems largely from space and security issues related to the district court houses in the building, Harrison said. The county has been actively seeking new space for the courts for the past four years.

“County’s are required by state law to provide adequate space for the courts,” Harrison said. “Our courts really need additional space. They have been very patient and cooperative with us and they realize there is not going to be any money any time soon to build a building. When this opportunity arose, it seemed perfect.”

The county intends to move the clerk and recorder, treasurer and assessor’s offices to the bank building, located across the street from the county’s current home. That would open up the east side of the historic building for new court space.

“That whole (east) half will become the court’s and that way they can secure it better,” Harrison said. “Right now security is not up to par so by making one half of the building the court’s, it will allow open access to the west side of the building and more security on the east.”

The county approached the bank about the possibility of buying the building last year, but a price agreement was not reached until January. The parties agreed on a price of $400,000 for the 14,000 square-foot building. The purchase will be made with cash, according to Harrison.

“Through careful budgeting and saving each year the commissioners have been able to achieve savings each year,” Harrison said. “That is why we are able to do this.”

The agreement accomplishes two purposes for First National Bank, according to bank President Byron Maynes.

“We had two big driving desires in selling this building,” Maynes said. “First, we didn’t want to have an empty building sitting on Main St. Secondly, we didn’t want to sell it to somebody who was going to put a bank in there. I think this fits with what the county needed to do and is a long term benefit to our community.”

First National intends to have the old building empty in early May, which will then allow the county to begin remodeling work.

“It is a fantastic building,” Harrison said. “But we do want to create that environment that if someone from the public goes in they know where the treasurer is as opposed to the assessor. Right now, the building is mostly open, so we will need to create that environment.”

Harrison said the county hopes to have all offices moved to their new location by the end of the year.

Remodeling plans are also in the works for the west side of the county courthouse.

“There will have to be some remodeling on the court side,” Harrison said. “We will be building courtrooms and expanding space.”

Harrison believes the purchase of the building will allow the county government to continue to offer excellent service to its many constituents.

“It makes sense for us,” Harrison said. “We already have the annex (located at 106 W. North St.) so now we can really start building a county campus.”

The county plans to keep the existing date and temperature sign that stands at the corner of the building, according to Harrison.

“We are going to keep the sign,” he said. “That was the first date-time sign in Cortez, so we want to keep it for the community.”

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