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LTC accepts Herald Building gift, initiates movement

By John Estridge, Editor

Liberty Town Council members unanimously accepted the gift of the Herald Building from David and Steven Wedding at their regular meeting, Monday evening, August 5.

The Weddings own the Liberty Herald and the building which held the newspaper's former office. After the office was closed in November 2018, the Weddings offered the building to the town as a present.

After the town received the offer in April, it set off a string of possibilities with county and town government.

Union County wants to move its dispatchers out of the Union County Jail, which is located at 106 Union Street and move them to the present Liberty clerk's office, which is located in a building between the Liberty Police Department and the Liberty Volunteer Fire Department. Its physical address is 1 South Fairground Street.

The jail and the Liberty clerk's office are separated by a parking lot.

LTC wants to move its clerk's office into the Herald Building at 10-12 North Market Street. Some council members said the clerk's office needs additional room for storage of records. The records are currently stored in the LVFD firehouse.

Union County needs to move its dispatchers out of the jail because the state is mandating the county create a medical room inside the jail. The only room the county commissioners think will fit the state's requirements, which includes Americans with Disability Act specifications, is where the dispatchers are currently located.

At first, the county wanted to move the dispatchers to the Health Department Building at 6 West South Street, the intersection of South and Main streets. However, costs were huge to move into that space as the county needed to build a radio tower and purchase a generator among other needed remodeling changes to the building to fit the needs of the dispatchers. During the recent joint meeting held July 30 for LTC members and commissioners, commissioner Tim Williams set the cost at $117,500.

There has been opposition by two LTC members, the clerk and her employees and the town attorney in accepting the Herald Building gift and moving the clerk's office. During the joint meeting, no progress was made toward coming up with an answer about the town accepting the gift offer.

Twenty-eight minutes into Monday's meeting, LTC President Matt Barnhizer read a proposed ordinance which would accept the building gift offer.

Barnhizer said the town has agreed to accept the building as a gift with the only cost being for the town to pay for an appraisal. The Weddings will use the appraisal amount on their taxes.

LTC member Jerry Paul made the motion.

“I'm ready to move,” Paul said. “We're late.”

LTC member Rachel Marcum seconded the motion. It was a voice vote. It seemed to be unanimous.

Then, near the meeting's end, Barnhizer brought the subject back to the table. This time he wanted council members to make it known the council is moving forward with the clerk's office move to the Herald Building.

“I think this is a good move,” Barnhizer said. “I just wanted to see if anyone wanted to make a motion to move forward.”

“I think we have to,” Paul said. “Otherwise we are going to lose everything. Everybody knows it. And it'll happen if we don't do it.”

LTC member Keith Bias suggested the council pass three resolutions: One is a resolution on moving the clerk's office; two is a resolution of advertising bid specs and drawings for the Herald Building remodel; and third would be an interlocal agreement with the county over the specifics of the lease and/or rent.

Bias emphasized it did not have to be in that order, but those are the three basic resolutions that would be needed.

Chris Bills was the attorney sitting in for Walt Chidester, the town attorney, who could not make it to Monday night's meeting.

He suggested council could go ahead with the vote saying council wants to move forward toward the goal of moving the clerk's office to the Herald Building.

In a very convoluted way, council did that, passing a resolution that said the town wants to move toward moving the clerk's office to the Herald Building as long as the county meets the different criteria it says it will do toward making that move possible.

Bias then went back to his three steps, and council agreed on the three points.