Harlem officials chose this month to lease property they had considered buying for a new public safety building.
At a special called meeting on Dec. 15, the Harlem City Council agreed to a $36,000 purchase option for the property at the corner of West Milledgeville Road and North Louisville Street.
"I think it is a good deal for both sides," City Manager Jason Rizner said of the lease-with-an-option-to-buy approach.
"I think it will work well for everybody involved."
Since 2002, city officials have considered buying the property at 110 W. Milledgeville Road from Mayor Bobby Culpepper.
Plans are to renovate and expand the building that once housed the Culpepper Ford auto dealership.
The new facility will replace the Harlem Department of Public Safety building, which officials have said the department outgrew years ago.
Culpepper said he has recused himself from any discussion about the land purchase.
The purchase option includes a $16,000 down payment to Culpepper and a monthly payment of more than $1,600, Rizner said.
"It offsets the costs that you would have (for the property)," Culpepper said. "I thought it was better, rather than to force them (other city officials) to make a commitment."
City officials are still awaiting confirmation for federal Department of Agriculture financing to purchase the 1.2-acre lot.
The purchase option allows the city to get the confirmation before purchasing the land while preventing Culpepper from selling it to another buyer.
It also helps Culpepper make up for potentially lost revenue from the property, since he cannot rent it, and damage done to the building during project planning.
"There's some destruction to enable construction," Culpepper said.
Culpepper said he hopes construction can start by spring.
"The planning is on target," he said. "We're moving ahead with it."
The budget for the entire project, including land acquisition, architecture, construction and other costs, is estimated to be about $2.4 million.
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