The Thomaston City Council approved a lease agreement with the State Board of Pardons and Parole to use the former municipal building on Highway 19 North to house the state probation office. The action came at the council’s meeting Tuesday night.
District 1 Council member Gary Atwater, Jr. recused himself and left the room during the discussion and vote. Atwater is a probation officer with the state and did not want there to be any appearance of conflict between his employment and his elected office.
City Attorney Joel Bentley said he researched the matter at Atwater’s request and found no conflict.
“For the record, I looked into the issue of whether or not it would be an ethical conflict for Council member Atwater to vote. I don’t believe it would be because he does not have a personal interest in this matter,” said Bentley. “ However, in abundance of caution, he asked me whether he should abstain, and I certainly respect that.”
Council member Jim Richards made a motion to approve the lease agreement with the state, and Council member Patsy Perdue seconded.
Mayor Hays Arnold said he was delighted to see the state move into the building.
“With our tenant, we have outstanding individuals who will be there, who will help protect the building over the years to come,” Arnold said. “It is money well spent on renovation to prepare the building for these good people. Once again, there’s nothing that destroys a building any more so than non-use. They deteriorate rapidly, and this will ensure that we will have that building cared for. It is also rewarding for the taxpayers of the City of Thomaston, because it is a lucrative contract, and we appreciate that.
City Attorney Joel Bentley reviewed the agreement at the request of City Manager Patrick Comiskey, who, on behalf of the city, negotiated the lease with the State Board of Pardons and Parole, and the State Properties Commission.
“This agreement is for the balance of the state fiscal year, which runs through June 30, 2013,” said Bentley. “The rental rate is as stated, $3,420 (a month) beginning the first day of November 2012. This lease is renewable in annual increments for eight consecutive years at the request of the tenant. Otherwise, the provisions in this lease are fairly standard. It is a good lease, I don’t see a reason why, given that it is between two government bodies, that this city council can’t enter into this lease agreement. It is a very good lease.”
Another provision in the lease is a 2 percent step up in rent each year if the state exercises its option ot renew the agreement.
“While that is certainly not a guarantee,” said Mayor Arnold, “in most instances, they have ended up proving to be tenants for long periods of time.”
The state probation office will occupy the top floor of the building, which faces Highway 19. The ground floor office space could also be rented in the future if the opportunity arises.
Mayor Arnold called for a vote on the motion and it was 4-0 in favor.