Delaware County commissioners May 10 voted to reject two bids for the purchase of the former county jail, with one commissioner predicting the county might be able to get more money for the building.
The county April 5 received two bids for the purchase of the former jail at 20 W. Central Ave.
County Director of Facilities Jon Melvin said Michael Cox bid $156,000 and Roxeanne Amidon bid $10,500.
The county set no minimum bid for the building, which served as the county jail for more than 100 years at the northeast corner of Central Avenue and Franklin Street.
While the building is on the National Register of Historic Places, which does not allow demolition or unlimited structural changes, the county also set no criteria for the building's use.
That will change in the next round of bidding.
Cox told the commissioners he and his partner in making the bid, Nick Mango, both are Delaware attorneys who would use the old jail as a law office.
He said that is consistent with its current use as the Delaware County Law Library and Fifth District Court of Appeal offices. They will move to other county offices if the old jail sells, he said.
Cox said the plan to sell the jail was well-publicized.
"I don't think there's any reason to believe that opening this up again is going to reap a much larger dollar amount for the county," he said.
"I would ask that rather than rejecting bids," he said, "that we enter into either formal negotiations for the sale, or at least sit down and talk about whatever the concerns are that some community members may have raised, how those can be addressed by our purchase and plan."
Assistant County Prosecutor Aric Hochstettler said the original bidding process was based on price alone, and the commissioners "are not in a position legally to negotiate on unannounced criteria."
He said the next advertisement for bids will contain additional criteria, and the prosecutor's office will "put something together" for the new advertisement for bids within a month.
"After the advertisement ran, some concerns were raised by other public officials about the lack of additional criteria," Hochstettler added. "County staff considered recommending an addendum to the bid and it was decided not to make that recommendation, to simply see if there was any interest in the building at all ... Both bidders that have responded have provided additional information that the commissioners would like to take into account . ... The reason for the recommendation to reject is basically to go back, redo an advertisement that will include all of the criteria that has come to be known to staff and to the board since the time we first advertised."
County officials would not comment on the specific criteria they wish to add to the next advertisment for bids.
Commissioner Jeff Benton said he thinks there's a potential for an increased price for the building "if we spell out the details of the bid process as the prosecutor is recommending."
"We just want to make sure we get this right," Commissioner Gary Merrell said. "We want to protect that building."
The bid placed by Amidon identified her as being with Roxlpon Holding LLC, Delaware.
She earlier told ThisWeek Delaware News her plan for the jail building was to establish a restaurant and inn with spa services in the residence and part of the cell block. The balance of the cell block would have been renovated for tour groups initially, and possible expansion of the restaurant later. Graffiti drawn by prisoners would have remained in the cells.
"Our interest first and foremost is to preserve the history of the building," she said, adding research showed the building would require a minimum renovation investment of $500,000.
Melvin earlier said the building's historical designation qualifies it for tax incentives if a new owner rehabilitates it.
The potential sale is part of a county effort to consolidate offices following construction of a new downtown courthouse and the acquisition of the Delaware Area Career Center north campus. The county will take possession of the DACC site in 2019. It sits on 64 acres off state Route 521 in Brown Township.