Are Hamilton, Butler County towers too nice for government? Officials consider their future

Someday, Hamilton and Butler County governments may move out of the two government towers near the intersection of High Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard so they can be occupied by businesses.

City and county officials alike say they feel the buildings, a pair that were built together and dedicated Aug. 16, 2000, are too nice to house government offices.

The topic came up recently because Hamilton’s city government is considering selling its tower at 345 High St. to a Hamilton Community Authority. The authority would use the city’s future lease payments to it to repay more than $24 million it expects to borrow for about $12.7 million in funding for the Spooky Nook gigantic indoor sports complex and convention center on North B Street that is expected to be completed in mid-2021.

The city, despite that proposed sale, is not planning to move from its building, which is connected to Butler County’s tower at 315 High St.

Hamilton City Manager Joshua Smith had mentioned previously he wouldn’t mind city government moving from 345 High St. This media outlet asked him whether he envisions city government moving from the tower in light of the sale and city’s lease of the building.

“I have always believed government should not occupy the nicest office building in our downtown,” Smith responded. “While we expect city offices to be located in the building for the foreseeable future, we will continue to look to minimize the space we are utilizing and sub-lease space to other tenants.

“This will allow us to decrease the city’s out-of-pocket costs and add more jobs into our downtown. We are very proud of ODW Logistics currently being a large and growing tenant, and we will continue to compress the space the City is using and lease space to other commercial interests.”

The lease agreement with the Hamilton Community Authority would allow the city to continue doing that, he added.

Although the building would be owned by the authority, Hamilton’s city government would still continue to receive lease payments from ODW, because city government would be the “master lease holder,” Smith said.

“Currently, ODW pays $57,080.04 in annual lease payments,” Smith said. “Beginning July 1, 2019, the annual amount will increase to $85,620.”

Asked about the possibility of Hamilton possibly moving from its tower someday, Butler County Commissioner Don Dixon said he agreed with Smith’s opinion about the buildings being too nice to house governments.

“I’ve said all the time I’ve been there, I would never have built the building we’re in, for certain,” Dixon said. “I really do believe that any time public buildings are built with a super-high quality, with marble and stone and all the other finishes, and the private sector doesn’t have anything near that, something’s wrong with that picture.

“Because the taxpayers are paying for the marble, the granite, the stone, and all that other stuff, and we just do the people’s business, so it doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just somewhere to get the job done.”

He called it “way more extravagant than what we need to do the people’s business. But, it’s here, we’ve got it, and we’re going to have ours paid for. It’s a nice building and we’ll make the most of it, keep it up the way it should be kept up, until some other opportunity comes around.

“If somebody walked in — and we had a place to go — and offered to buy our side, I think there’s three votes on our commission to sell it in a heartbeat.”

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