City, county may buy property together

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By Jenny Hartley

City and county officials are working together to buy land that could possibly be home to several local functions.

County Council will vote on a resolution Monday night to commit to buy land where Perry's Texaco and Mullis Brothers Real Estate are on Main Street.

Eventually, the city and county would like to see a welcome center that would house the Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce, Lancaster County Economic Development Corp. and See Lancaster.

Lancaster County Economic Development Corp. is the county economic development arm. See Lancaster promotes downtown Lancaster, Heath Springs, Kershaw and the Van Wyck area.

Lancaster County Administrator Steve Willis said the city and county have already made a $25,000 down payment on the properties.

The Perry lot, at the corner of Meeting and Main streets, is $540,000. It includes the cost of the gas station building. The Mullis property is $160,000.

Since $25,000 has already been paid, the city and county will split the cost of the remaining $675,000, Willis said. The land totals about an acre.

The plan is preliminary, and there has been no talk of how much a new building would cost.

"I don't expect demolition there in a month or anything like that," Willis said.

Perry's Texaco is expected to remain in operation "for a while." Officials don't want an empty building to sit on the property for two or three years while the project moves along and funding is raised to build a welcome center.

The county may soon demolish the house on the Mullis property, which has been vacant for a while, and get rid of some of the overgrowth on the lot, Willis said.

Mahaffey Funeral Home owns an adjacent lot, and officials may eventually work out an agreement with the funeral home to share parking space on the properties.

"I think it has a lot of potential," said an enthusiastic Mayor Joe Shaw, who has been in discussions about the project. "It sounds great talking about it, but we've got a lot of work to do. At least we're moving forward."

Shaw said he'd like a committee to be formed of officials involved with the project to look into the feasibility of a shared facility and welcome center. He's pleased with the way the city and county have been working together.

"We like the concept," Shaw said. "We don't know if it'll work out or not."

If it doesn't work out, the city and county could find another use for it, Willis said.

"That would be up to the two councils to decide," Willis said.

County Council will hold its first meeting of 2008 at 6 p.m. in chambers on the second floor of the County Administration Building, 101 N. Main St. For details, call 285-1565.

Contact Jenny Hartley at 283-1151 or jhartley@thelancasternews.com