Broker to help find site for Benton-Franklin Human Services crisis response team, homeless housing unit

Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldNovember 13, 2013 

Franklin County commissioners plan to hire a commercial real estate broker to help find a place for the Benton-Franklin Human Services crisis response team and homeless housing unit.

Franklin commissioners have balked at a seven-year lease agreement approved by Benton County commissioners for space at 500 N. Morain St. in Kennewick, which would cost almost $10,000 a month with limited opt-out clauses.

But at Wednesday's meeting, Commissioner Brad Peck said it was unfair to continue using human services director Ed Thornbrugh to try to find a better deal.

"It does appear to me that there are other options that could be more cost effective, beneficial to the clients we serve and less risky for the counties," Peck said.

The contract could cost close to a million dollars in its life, which Peck said might not be much less than the counties buying or building their own facility.

Commissioners agreed to hire a broker Wednesday, but didn't know how much the help would cost or whether the person would need to be paid a flat fee or take a percentage of the transaction.

Peck said he hoped the deal would have no direct cost to the county, adding that the counties could still go with the offer for the Morain Street property, favored by Benton County, if a better deal isn't found.

Commission Chairman Rick Miller agreed the county should consider its options.

"I would hate to see us just go with this building and find out later that we could have done a lot better," he said.

Benton County commission Chairman Shon Small said Wednesday afternoon that he wasn't aware of the Franklin commissioners' plans to hire a real estate broker. He said Thornbrugh has already worked with property owners to find a way out of the contract after three years, if needed.

The lease would give the counties flexibility if state funding were pulled from mental health services, he said.

"We were looking at doing a lease for about three years to see how things are going to progress or regress in terms of financing," Small said.

The proposed lease calls for the counties to pay $6,300 a month for crisis response space and $3,200 for homeless housing offices. The human services department now pays $4,600 a month to lease space on Deschutes Avenue, but it must also pay $1,800 a month for a high-speed fiber optic phone line that it won't have to pay for at the new location.

The crisis response center provides mental health intervention services, including grief counseling, referrals and emergency assistance with psychiatric medications.

Also Wednesday:

-- Commissioners announced that Anchor Construction of Othello had the apparent low bid on a bridge replacement on Road 170, about two miles west of Highway 17, northwest of Mesa. Anchor's bid of $613,279 was lower than seven other companies. The engineer's estimate for the project, which is being paid for with federal and state money, was $700,825.

Commissioners are expected to award the contract for work at next week's meeting, which has been moved to Monday because of a Washington State Association of Counties conference.

-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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