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County seeks useful purpose for annex

By Rick Hayes
Contributing Writer
updated: 7/18/2018 9:53 AM

Saddled with an empty building that is no longer habitable, Franklin County officials are looking for alternative uses for its annex building on West Main Street.

Officials moved county personnel out of the building last year due to flooding and other safety concerns and spent $500,000 on renovations at the Campbell Building, where several offices are now located.

During county committee meetings Monday, Board Chairman Randall Crocker proposed seeking grant money, which would include demolition costs, to turn the lot into a small business incubator for retail or office space.

"I don't know that the county can actually do this. There are grants for this type of thing. We probably would have to joint venture this with the city of Benton and give the ownership and control over to (them). It will give us something useful there," Crocker said. He also mentioned FREDCO (Franklin County Economic Development Corp.) may have to be involved in the project.

Board member Jack Warren said a similar incubator was started in West Frankfort, but it was not marketed properly.

"It was tough getting people to come in. From what I saw in six years of watching it, it all depends on who you have running it, who you've got doing the talking and the selling," Warren said.

Crocker said the proposed incubator here would focus on retail, rather than an industrial-type situation that existed in West Frankfort.

"That probably would be a lot easier," Warren responded.

Circuit Clerk Jim Muir suggested offering the lot to the federal government due to the close proximity of federal offices and the courthouse.

"Dealing with the federal government might be tricky," Crocker responded.

It was also suggested child advocacy centers, Man-Tra-Con or other agencies might be interested in the property.

Crocker said Ryan Buckingham of the Emergency Management Agency has found grant money to cover the demolition of the property. He and State's Attorney Evan Owens eventually will be responsible for putting together a proposal for county officials to consider.

In other news, Treasurer Keith Jones reported the common account will have a balance of about $380,000 by the end of the week, following the payment of $106,000 in claims.

He reported he is "comfortable" the county not have to draw down additional funds from its tax anticipation warrant as a result of anticipated property tax revenues.