Would a rational investor buy the County Courthouse?
Of the 59 local business responses to a questionnaire about what to do with the County Courthouse building on Price Main Street, apparently not one said, "I'll buy it."
Instead, the top suggestions gathered by the Better City consulting firm hired by the county turned out to be:
Some form of teenage entertainment;
A recreation center;
A library; or
A strip mall.
That was the summary presented by Adam Hughes of Better City to a sparsely-attended special meeting of the commission last week.
Hughes is Director of Community Development for the firm.
The commissioners, Price City and Main Street businesses are all concerned about what will happen to the courthouse when county offices move to a new building 750 E. 100 North in Price.
Hughes told commissioners and a handful of visitors that the challenge is finding selling points for the lot and/or building that would convince a rational investor to take over.
It's a challenge because Price and the county in general don't have the population or the disposable household income to be a magnet for private investment. Households here generally have between $1,000 and $3,000 so spend every month after taxes, rent and interest payments.
Some of the points that came from citizens during the informal discussion showed a general confirmation of those observations. The recreation center discussion demonstrated the dilemma.
The county - Price in particular - already has plenty of recreational opportunities. The problem is that those opportunities are scattered intead of being housed in one building like the Sports Mall in Murray.
Price has the Desert Wave Pool and an indoor pool and Helper has a pool of its own. There are tennis courts, bowling alleys, horseshoe pits, weight and exercise equipment facilities, video arcades, handball/racquetball courts, and basketball courts. Trouble is, if a person wants to do more than one thing, it involves spending time and fuel getting around.
So would a rational investor put millions of dollars into a rec center in downtown Price, knowing it would be convenient only to Price while the other half of the people in the county would see no advantage?
Local businessman Alan Peterson quipped that maybe what the county needs is an irrational investor to do something with the property.
It appeared from the comments of the few people attending that the property - with or without the building - ought to be used for something that would bring people to downtown Price. They would also prefer to see a private (that is, tax-paying) entity instead of a government agency.
County Commissioner Casey Hopes suggested that the property could be used for recreation without being enclosed. Open space with a splash pad or some other activity might be viable, he said.
Alan Peterson, however, warned that it could be financially risky for local government to commit to another public facility. Even if the money for construction is available, he advised, there will be ongoing expenses to consider. Peterson cited the Events Center, Senior Center and North Springs Shooting Range as examples of long-term liabilities facing the county.