NORTHFIELD CENTER — Township trustees appear to be supportive of placing an approximately 0.46-mill bond issue on the November ballot so the former First Merit Bank can be purchased to serve as the Township Hall.

Trustees have been considering options for new or refurbished facilities during the last few months, and discussed the matter at a June 20 work session. A resolution to proceed with the plan is expected to be on the trustees’ July 1 meeting agenda.

"Although I don’t want to see the current Township Hall knocked down, I believe we need to move forward with facility improvements, and I think buying the bank building on Olde Eight Road is a good option," said Trustee Russ Mazzola.

He pointed out the 6,200-square-foot bank building, which sets on 3.22 acres and was built in 1973, would suit the township’s needs well, adding it offers more modern amenities than the current Township Hall, which was built in 1905.

"It is a great location in the center of the township and close to a school, the library and several businesses," Mazzola said. "With a few renovations, it wouldn’t be difficult to move into."

Trustee Paul Buescher said the building has one story above ground, plus a "lower level" (basement) and a large room suitable for township meetings and public use. "It’s a very secure building," he noted.

Trustee Rich Reville said the single main floor would provide easier access for elderly and handicapped residents, and it would not be difficult to install an elevator to reach the lower level.

"We’ve been struggling for years with many issues at the current Township Hall," said Mazzola, adding the basement has experienced flooding and the township currently is having a contractor address asbestos and mold issues.

Mazzola said officials have estimated it would take between $850,000 and $1.2 million to get the old Township Hall into tip-top shape. He added trustees are looking at a figure of $1.4 million to buy and convert the bank for township use.

Buescher stressed that state law requires a township to place a bond issue on the ballot for any Township Hall improvements costing more than $50,000.

Township Administrator Steve Wright said the Summit County auditor would have to determine the exact amount of millage for a bond issue, but that figure is expected to be around 0.46 mills.

He said the bond issue to raise $1.4 million would be paid off over a maximum of 30 years at about 4.25 percent interest — possibly slightly less — and could be funded through the USDA’s community facilities loan program.

If voters approve the bond issue this fall, it would cost a resident who owns a property valued at $100,000 about $17.44 per year. The tax would first be collected in 2020, and would disappear after the debt is paid off.

Wright told trustees that if a new Township Hall is built at a cost of about $3 million, residents potentially would be looking at a 1.06-mill bond issue which would cost them $37.10 per year per $100,000 valuation.

Mazzola said it is the trustees’ intention to focus now on the Township Hall, and continue to use the current fire station for another couple of years until a plan is finalized to either upgrade it or build a new one.

"We would hope to fund the fire station improvements internally, and not go back to taxpayers again," said Reville. 

Wright said the township can do that with general fund money if available, because different state standards apply to facilities such as fire stations than apply to township halls.

If the bank building is bought and becomes Township Hall, trustees said they then would have to decide what to do with the existing Township Hall. Among options are to demolish it, keep it for another use or sell it.

The filing deadline for issues to be submitted to the Summit County Board of Elections is Aug. 7.

Reporter Ken Lahmers can be reached at 330-541-9400, ext. 4189 or klahmers@recordpub.com.