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Tuesday, September 27th, 2022

St. Marys hopes to buy Guard Armory, sell it later

Armory for sale

By Leslie Gartrell
Photo by Leslie Gartrell/The Daily Standard

The Ohio Army National Guard Armory, 109 E. South St., St. Marys.

ST. MARYS - City council members during their regular Monday meeting heard first reading of an ordinance to purchase the former Ohio Army National Guard Armory building.
City Public Service and Safety director Greg Foxhoven said the National Guard left the armory in 2020 and relocated to Lima. The building has since sat empty.
Thanks to state legislation, the city gets first choice whether to purchase the building or let it be sold at public auction. Foxhoven said city officials prefer to purchase the armory and later resell it to a business of their choosing.
"We just feel that this is the best way forward for our community," Foxhoven said. "If we do not purchase this property it will go to a public auction and it will be sold to the highest bidder. In my opinion, that is not in the best interest of our community."
The city has worked with the Ohio Adjutant General's Department and the Ohio Department of Administrative Services to appraise the building and the roughly four acres of land it sits on, Foxhoven said.
The two state agencies agreed with an appraisal of $210,000, he said.
Should council approve the purchase, the city would keep about half of the land and use it to expand K.C. Geiger Park and also explore adding a hiking trail along the river, Foxhoven said.
Council will read the ordinance three times in public session and likely approve the purchase at their Oct. 24 meeting.
Once the purchase
has been approved, Foxhoven said the city would probably close on the building in December
or January.
After closing, the city would transfer the property to the Community Improvement Corporation. The CIC would then create a marketing plan to later sell the armory.
"We've done this on many occasions in the past, where the CIC has acted as agent for the city to sell this commercial property," assistant law director Kraig Noble said. "The theory is we want to see a really good business (move in); we don't want this to be purchased and then have something not go well."
Noble said the armory is about 100 years old and is located on ground once owned by the Community Welfare Organization, a group formed after World War I dedicated to improving downtown St. Marys to honor veterans. The Ohio Army National Guard served in the city for 143 years.
Photo by Leslie Gartrell/The Daily Standard

The armory will need work, city officials said. Above, a small tree limb pokes out from a corner of the building.

Noble said part of the reason the National Guard relocated is due to the maintenance required at the armory.
"It was just too big of a maintenance issue. They were talking about the windows having to be replaced and all the systems in there are pretty well shot as far as the plumbing," he said, adding, "there's no handicap access."
"So any plan to use this building has to have a fairly detailed plan with good figures, hard figures, good estimates and showing the financial wherewithal to make this happen so it doesn't become a burden and come back to the city."
The building cannot be demolished for 25 years after purchase, Noble said, but significant alterations can be made. Foxhoven said he has been contacted by four business and/or individuals to inquire about the sale of the armory since the National Guard announced its relocation.
In other business, council members passed as an emergency an ordinance to authorize Foxhoven to apply for a $385,000 Ohio Public Works Commission (OPWC) grant for the second phase of the East Spring Street reconstruction project. If awarded, the grant would cover 50% of the project's estimated cost, he said.
Phase one, which started at the railroad tracks on East Spring Street and went east to Knoxville Avenue, has been completed, he said. Phase two will start at the railroad tracks and go west to Vine Street, including a retention wall.
The project is a complete reconstruction, including new curbs, sidewalks, gutters, street lights and utilities.
Additionally, council approved as an emergency $635,500 in temporary appropriations.
Foxhoven said $235,000 will be used for fuel for generator seven, $160,000 will be used for fuel for city vehicles and $115,000 will be used to pay the city's bond counsel and municipal advisor.
The city council meets next at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 10 in the municipal building.
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