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County may lease space at hospital

Commissioners will consider Citrus Memorial as a way to ease its space crunch.

By CATHERINE E. SHOICHET
Published February 27, 2007


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INVERNESS - County commissioners could take a temporary step toward relieving the county's office space crunch today - more than six months after commission Chairman Dennis Damato first presented a study about the problem.

They will consider leasing a 12,000-square-foot building from Citrus Memorial Health System.

The Pine Avenue building, which formerly housed an A&P and facilities for the Inverness First Baptist Church, could house the Supervisor of Elections Office for the next five years, Assistant County Administrator Tom Dick said.

"It gives the board a little bit of breathing room, and it gives us some extra time," he said.

Supervisor of Elections Susan Gill said the new space would be a "win-win situation," doubling the size of her office and providing necessary room for employees and equipment.

"Let's face it, as we've seen, it takes a long time to get things in motion," she said. "If we had plans and land it would take two years to get this built, and we don't have either."

Ideally, Gill said, she would like the county to build a 25,000-square-foot office space.

But in the meantime, she said, the hospital space provides the best alternative. She said her office, now located next to the courthouse on N Apopka Avenue, is too small to handle the 2008 presidential election.

Dick said the county would pay up to $600,000 to remodel the hospital-owned space.

Once a lease agreement is signed, it would take construction crews about nine months to prepare the space, he said. And in exchange for the added building value, the county would pay a lower lease rate of $10.50 per square foot.

Damato received a lukewarm reception when he presented findings from his space-needs study to commissioners in July. Commissioners Vicki Phillips and Joyce Valentino criticized his proposal, claiming he hadn't presented enough options.

But Gill said Monday that when it comes to short-term solutions for her office's space problems, options are few.

"I just don't see any other available space anywhere else," she said. "We have immediate needs which need to be satisfied."

Commissioners will meet at 1 p.m. today at the Citrus County Courthouse, 110 N Apopka Ave.

Catherine E. Shoichet can be reached at cshoichet@sptimes.com or 860-7309.

[Last modified February 26, 2007, 23:21:25]


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