Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Princeton Times

November 18, 2011

Council clarifies ownership of city hall

PRINCETON — Who will own Princeton’s new city hall?

With the new headquarters officially on Princeton’s horizon and a building commission to run it in its early stages, many of the questions behind the city’s decision to buy the old First Community Bank building on Mercer Street have been resolved.

But the one about ownership, posed by John Dills Monday night, still weighs heavy for some Princeton residents.

“Who will actually own the building, the old bank building?” Dills asked, as he addressed Princeton City Council during its November session at the current Municipal Building on Courthouse Road.

Mayor Patricia “Pat” Wilson fielded the question, answering, “The commission will, as I recognize it.”

City Attorney Paul Cassell confirmed that stance after the meeting, reporting that the five-member building commission will seek the bonds to allow the purchase of the former bank building. Therefore, the commission will be in much the same position as a person purchasing a home.

Most home purchases require a bank mortgage, which allows the purchaser to assume ownership of the home, while paying off the debt incurred to the bank to make the purchase.

The building commission will be the official owner of the new city hall. The City of Princeton will then lease the building and the facilities from the building commission, which will, in turn, pay down the bond debts.

Cassell said he anticipated the City of Princeton would assume ownership of the new city hall, once its bonds are paid off. Full terms of the lease agreement and payment plan, however, have not yet been drafted.

In fact, building commission members have not yet been identified, but there are a few rules in place for their selection.

The members must live inside Princeton’s city limits; there must be five of them; and, no more than three members of the panel may be of the same political party.

“We hope to search that out and find members who are civic-minded,” Wilson said, answering Dills’ question concerning the identities of the members.

During Monday’s City Council meeting, the city’s governing body announced that members had selected a special bond counsel to provide legal services during the purchase and loan processes. Four attorneys announced an interest in the project.

The Council selected Bill Bragg, of the Charleston law firm Goodwin and Goodwin.

Bragg reported via a phone call Thursday that the city hall’s formal lease agreement should spell out the process to transfer ownership from the building commission to the City of Princeton, once the bond debts are paid in full. In many instances, he said the purchasing municipality pays a very small amount — such as $1 — to signify that the building has officially been purchased.

In other action Monday, Council:

• Proclaimed Nov. 20-26 as Christian Heritage Week in the City of Princeton.

• Proclaimed January 2012 as Gen. Hugh Mercer Month in the city.

• Reviewed a plan to increase the size of drain pipes at the intersection of North Walker Street and Honaker Avenue. The change should improve storm drainage in the area.

• Approved financial reports that showed the city’s October statement to be 12.08 percent ahead of budget estimates at the end of the fourth month of the fiscal year.

• Advanced the new Princeton welcome signs by approving sign and base designs and directing the plan to be forwarded to the Department of Highways for review and approval.

• Ratified the slate of officers to serve the next term of the Princeton Community Hospital Association: President Fred St. John, Vice President Terri Graham; Secretary Wayne Griffith and Treasurer Frank Sinicrope.

•  Approved Tom Giffen, Craig Hammond and Ann Wells for terms on the PCH Board of Directors.

• Welcomed new Princeton Public Library Director David Shumate to the City Council session and its staff.

— Contact Tammie Toler at ttoler@ptonline.net.

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