Madison County looks to purchase land for offices

The Madison County Commissioners are inching toward a decision to purchase property just outside of Virginia City to permanently house the health department and other county offices.

However, a resolution to purchase the property hasn’t been passed yet and a buy/sell agreement has yet to be approved by commissioners. But the county, through the health department has settled on a purchase price of $520,000.

The commissioner and public health administrator Jill-Marie Steeley met Monday afternoon to discuss the issue further. Assistant county attorney Chris McConnell also attended the meeting.

McConnell’s concern was a resolution the commissioners were considering that seemed to say the county health department would purchase the property with money borrowed from the county.

The health department doesn’t have the legal authority to purchase land, he said.

The property in question is owned by Robert Nevin and is the current home of the health department, Montana Department of Revenue and the Madison County Communications and Emergency Management offices.

Steeley was interested in the health department owning the property for two reasons: it would secure a permanent home for the department and satisfy part of the intention of the public health mill levy the citizens of Madison County passed two years ago.

The campaign for the mill levy, in part, discussed using the tax money to secure a permanent location for the health department, she said. To that end, Steeley and the Madison County Board of Health have saved about $110,000.

The commissioners all seemed in agreement that the county should purchase the property and keep the public health department where they are, the question was how to word a resolution to accomplish those goals.

“I think we all agree this is a necessary step for the county and for public health,” said Madison County Commissioner Jim Hart. “I do believe it needs to be bought and needs to be bought now.”

Steeley also indicated the board of health would like to have an agreement in writing with the commissioners about the property continuing to house the health department.

Besides being a home for the public health department, the property comes with some income from a lease for office space with the Department of Revenue as well as storage units on the property.

Down the road, the land may also serve as a home for a new detention center, Hart said during an interview prior to Monday’s meeting.

“I think by going in this direction it gives us a very real option,” he said.

However, decisions about a new detention center are still a ways down the road and will involve quite a bit of public involvement, Hart said.

The commissioners will again take up the issue of purchasing the Nevin property at their next regular commission meeting July 19. Between now and then the county attorney’s office and the commissioners will continue to work on a resolution to purchase the land, as well as tweak the propose buy/sell agreement.

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