PASCO -- Cracks were showing in Pasco’s relationship with Franklin County on Monday night after city council members balked at the county’s request for the city to pay for court space it traditionally has used rent-free.
At issue was the extension of the city’s 40-year lease on the space in the county courthouse’s public safety building the city uses for its municipal court.
The lease expires May 1, but the city needs an extension until new court space is built along with the Franklin County jail extension. The new space is expected to be ready in late 2013.
Deputy City Manager Stan Strebel told the council during Monday’s workshop discussion that the county is asking Pasco to pay rent on its current municipal court space of $11.50 per square feet, or about $41,500 per year.
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“We have not been paying anything for rent up to now,” Strebel said.
The county also is asking for $32,600 per year for security, custodial and utility costs. That’s in addition to the $28,000 that Pasco already contributes toward operational expenses, Strebel said.
The county’s requests would bring Pasco’s annual cost for the court space from $28,000 to $74,000, he added.
Mayor Matt Watkins noted that Pasco originally paid to improve the court space 40 years ago.
“The county is making it extremely hard to want to partner by jacking up rent on space we paid the cost of construction for,” Watkins said.
Mayor Pro Tem Rebecca Francik suggested Pasco should reconsider whether it wants to enter into a lease with Franklin County for the new court space in the jail extension -- or perhaps find its own space if the county is going to view the city as a “cash cow.”
“Historically ... there were a number of opportunities when the county has looked at us as a way to make money,” she said.
City Manager Gary Crutchfield said with the May 1 deadline looming, the council has little choice. It must renew the short-term lease, he said, but could consider future alternatives.
“You’re going to have to hold your nose and vote,” he said.
The council is scheduled to consider the lease renewal next Monday.
-- Michelle Dupler: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org