Odds of Lamar County Appraisal District moving into downtown Paris decreased substantially Monday when two of the 12 entities it serves voted against a proposal to purchase the Peoples National Bank building at the corner of 1st Street SW and Grand Avenue.
Three-fourths, or eight of the jurisdictions, must approve the purchase price of $625,000 plus closing costs and financing.
Paris City Council denied the request on a 4-1 vote less than 15 minutes into the council’s 5:30 p.m. meeting. The Chisum ISD Board of Trustees unanimously declined the request after meeting briefly in executive session.
After hearing from Lamar County Chief Appraiser Jerry Patton, Reno City Council gave the request its first approval, a decision the council reached unanimously.
A need for additional staff and a more taxpayer-friendly office to keep abreast of changing times has prompted the need for a larger facility, Patton contends.
In the coming weeks, Lamar County Appraisal District will be asking the remaining entities to approve the purchase of the building and a parking lot to the west. Those entities include the cities of Blossom, Deport, Roxton and Honey Grove, along with Lamar County Commissioners’ Court, and school boards representing North Lamar ISD, Paris ISD and Prairiland ISD as well as Paris Junior College regents.
Paris Mayor Steve Clifford, supported by three of the four councilors present at the meeting, called the request “possibly the most inappropriate item to ever come before us” in the four years he has served on the council.
“I believe the relocation of the Lamar County Appraisal District into one of the most beautiful and historic buildings in downtown would be a terrible mistake and would harm long-term plans for downtown,” the mayor said. “If this sale goes through, this multistory historic landmark will be occupied by a government office. It will probably be dark and vacant throughout most evenings and will not contribute to the revitalization of downtown Paris.”
Other than Derrick Hughes, whose sole opposition centered around “another vacant building,” Paula Portugal, Linda Knox and Bill Trenado joined Clifford in a denial vote. Councilors Clayton Pilgrim and Renae Stone were absent.
In the meantime, Reno City Council gave its undivided support. The motion, made by City Councilman Brandon Thomas and approved without dissent, pledged to allocate $516.67 annually for the next 25 years with a 5.5% interest rate toward the purchase.
Thomas said that, had Paris agreed to the proposal, Paris would have paid roughly $6,682 per year.
Reno Mayor Bart Jetton said the amount was calculated by the appraisal district based on the number of parcels in the city.
When asked by Jetton how many square feet the Peoples National Bank location provides, Patton responded it’s roughly 30,000 square feet.
“That’s $20 a square foot,” Jetton said. “That’s pretty cheap.”
“It’s important to move forward and grow,” Jetton said after the meeting. “We want to be an integral part of the growth.”
Chisum trustees entered into closed session to discuss the issue, and they said nothing after reconvening in public, aside from taking the vote to deny the request.
Staff writer Tommy Culkin and City Editor Kim Cox contributed to this report.