BOWLING GREEN - It's better to buy than to rent if you plan on staying put for a while.
Wood County Commissioners have worked under that philosophy for a decade, moving nearly every county agency that was in rented office space into buildings owned by the county.
"We had so many different people out there renting that I just said, 'Government is here to stay. I don't see it going away in the next generation or two, so why are we paying rent for buildings we could just purchase?'●'' said Commissioner Jim Carter, who has been a proponent of the idea since he took office in 1997.
"I realize it does take a building off the tax rolls, and it does take away from someone who's renting a property, but our job as county commissioners is to save the taxpayers as much money as we can,'' he said. "I don't see any cheaper way to do it than to have our people in our own buildings.''
With plans to move the Ohio State University Extension Service this year to offices recently vacated by the Wood County Educational Service Center, the county will have only one rented office left.
Its annual rent bill, which topped $200,000 in 1997, will be just $16,500 after the extension service moves to the Dunbridge Road office building, which also houses the Solid Waste District and county Economic Development Commission.
County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said the move will save the county $43,965 a year in rent for the extension service. The county bought the Dunbridge Road building in 1998 to provide more room for the educational service center, but in 2002, the state legislature said counties were no longer obligated to provide office space to the service centers.
When commissioners began charging the service center rent, its board decided to build its own facility in the research park off I-75 at Dunbridge Road.
The county has bought a North Summit Street house for the public defender's office and converted the former county jail next to the courthouse into a records center and law library, again providing space for agencies that formerly rented space.
Mr. Kalmar said Wood County will continue to pay $16,500 a year to rent space on East Wooster Street for the Veterans Service Commission, but he does not see that changing.
"They like where they are,'' he said. "I think they like being near the license bureau and the auto title office. I think they feel the veterans who are going to come to their office may have other business to take care of at the same time.''
The auto title office, which is operated by the Wood County Clerk of Courts, pays $31,380 a year to rent space at the same East Wooster Street shopping plaza, but it generates enough income to be self-supporting.
Clerk Rebecca Bhaer said she doesn't see the title office moving either.
"It's a true one-stop shop with the license bureau and the driver's license exam station right there,'' she said. "It's a tremendous convenience to the public.''
The biggest challenge in coming years, Mr. Kalmar said, will be accommodating growth in county government. With an ever-growing caseload and need for records storage, the clerk of courts office at the courthouse is pinched for space with no easy way to expand.
Needs change as well.
"We've added a court security office,'' said Kristy Muir, county budget director. "It just depends on what mandates come along or what direction we want to go in.''
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