Renovations are on schedule at Delaware County's newest government facility, which could house tenants as soon as next month.

Renovations are on schedule at Delaware County's newest government facility, which could house tenants as soon as next month.

After much outcry from political opponents and others, it appears the conversion of the former Hall's Furniture store into county office space is nearing its conclusion.

Delaware County facilities director Jon Melvin last week said renovations to the 33,000-square-foot space at 2081 U.S. Route 23 North -- which the Delaware County commissioners have renamed the Frank B. Willis Government Building -- currently are on pace to be completed by the county's July 1 target date.

"We're working on the finishes now, basically," Melvin said. "We're still shooting for the first of July. The next two weeks are critical."

Melvin said work on and subsequent inspections of the building's ceiling and sprinkler system represent the most significant hurdles to finishing the project.

"It's been a good project," he said.

Last December, the county commissioners finalized the approximately $1.875-million purchase of the former furniture store, which it had leased since fall of 2006. They also contracted for $1.74-million in renovations to the space, so it could house the Delaware County Board of Elections.

A portion of the facility is expected to be leased to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, as well as a title agency and motor vehicles bureau which would be privately operated for the county.

Since the work began in January, the county has approved $55,000 in additional expenses for unforeseen renovations, such as replacing a sidewalk in front of the building and installing a new sanitary system.

Last Thursday, the commissioners also approved spending $121,000 to create a second public records retention center for the county at the renovated building. Currently, the county maintains a records center at the county engineer's office.

County officials noted money for the records facility at the new offices won't come from the county's general fund. Instead, it will be allocated from a separate "permanent-improvement" fund.

"Those should come out of the permanent-improvement fund," commissioner Kris Jordan said. "Those are physical assets the county will have for decades to come."

In recent months, county administrator Dave Cannon said he hoped to move the county offices by the Fourth of July weekend, but board of elections officials have asked that their office not be relocated before a scheduled Aug. 5 special election.

The commissioners are slated to meet with elections officials on Monday to discuss a schedule for the impending move.

Melvin said the BMV and title operations could be moved in by the target date.

"Realistically, it may just be the front portion for the one-stop shops," he said. "The rest could take another couple of weeks."

Over the past year, the commissioners have pushed forward with the purchase and renovation of the building in the face of political opponents who argued the project was too expensive.

The commissioners have maintained the project was cheaper than purchasing and renovating other sites throughout the county, and noted they could recoup their costs for the project through lease agreements within eight years.

The adjacent Big Lots store, which also occupies 33,000 square feet in the building, now leases its space from the county.

Thus far, Big Lots has paid the county $8,625 to occupy the space.

While some may be dissatisfied with the purchase and renovation, Melvin said, Big Lots representatives are looking forward to welcoming their new neighbors.

"They're actually excited about it," he said. "They think it will increase their business."