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Published: Wednesday, 12/27/2006

Fate of Sky Bank headquarters unknown

BOWLING GREEN - When Columbus-based Huntington Bancshares Inc. announced plans to merge with Sky Financial Group last week, a number of residents called City Hall suggesting the city buy Sky Bank's headquarters on South Main Street to use for city offices.

Mayor John Quinn said yesterday that he appreciates the suggestion, but he'd prefer to see the building remain bank offices.

"The first thing we're trying to do is keep jobs in that building," he said. "If there's any chance at all that those Sky people are going to stay there, that's what we'd like to see happen."

Jeri Grier-Ball, a Huntington spokesman, said it's too early to say what will happen with Sky's headquarters. Final decisions are not likely before next summer, she said.

"We have just started with the integration planning. None of the teams have met," Ms. Grier-Ball said.

In addition to its corporate headquarters in Columbus, she said, Huntington maintains regional offices as well as support service offices in other communities in its service area.

Sky Bank's four-story office building has 40,000 square feet and ample parking and is located in the city's downtown.

Mayor Quinn admits that those three assets could make it a great location for City Hall. In fact, those are the three attributes a committee he appointed in 2004 determined were needed for city office space.

The mayor has been leading an effort to relocate City Hall because the current 105-year-old building on North Church Street is cramped and in need of ongoing repairs and has limited parking.

While no decisions have been made about how to proceed, City Council included $500,000 in its 2007 budget to begin a fund for a new city office building. The mayor said he also planned to resurrect in 2007 the committee that studied possible locations and funding sources for a new city hall.

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