Wednesday, December 8, 2021

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Graham, NC 27253
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Elections staff could move into new HQ in former bank bldg. next spring

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It may not be ready in time for Christmas. But Alamance County’s elections staff is about to get a new home to replace its current abode at the corner of Maple and Pine streets in Graham.

Last Monday, Debra Bechtel, the county’s interim attorney, informed the county’s board of commissioners that she had a purchase agreement in hand for a now-vacant bank building at 1128 South Main Street that the commissioners had previously identified as a potential headquarters for the elections office.

The commissioners initially agreed to pursue this property’s purchase during a closed meeting in early October. At the time, the county was frantically seeking a new set of digs for the elections office due to the impending sale of the former Medicap pharmacy at 378 Harden Street, which the county has leased for a variety of election-related functions.

The county currently uses the decommissioned drug store to store much of its voting equipment, and at one time, the county’s administrators even contemplated buying this site in order to consolidate all of its electoral operations under one roof.

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The rug was nevertheless pulled out from under the county over the summer when its top brass learned of the imminent sale of the former Medicap building. The county was initially told that it would have to vacate the premises when its lease expired at the end of November. Since then, the county has negotiated a temporary extension that will allow it to retain use of the building through the end of December.

The Board of Elections would be moved from its current location on Maple Street to 1128 South Main Street, also in Graham. 

But with their days in the former pharmacy effectively numbered, the county’s administrators have been scouting out other potential locations for a consolidated elections office. They eventually zeroed in on a vacant bank building at 1128 South Main Street that was originally home to Alamance National Bank and later to Capital and First Horizon.

With 10,214 square feet of floor space and just under 2 acres of grounds, this property seemed well suited for the county’s needs. So, on October 4, the county’s board of commissioners held a closed meeting to authorize the county manager to make an offer on this piece of real estate.

The county’s purchase of this property hit a bit of a snag as the county’s administrators tried to negotiate an arrangement with the current owner – Memphis-based Iberia Bank. It wasn’t until November 15 that Bechtel announced she had a purchase agreement signed by the county and ready to send to the bank’s corporate owner.

As of last Wednesday, the property owner still hadn’t signed the agreement, although county officials assumed it was just a matter of time before the deal would be consummated.

According to assistant county manager Sherry Hook, the seller’s acceptance of the purchase agreement will kick off a 60-day “due diligence” period that will proceed the deal’s closure.

“Then there are going to be some renovations that need to be made to that building,” she added. “So, I don’t anticipate them moving before this coming spring.”

In the meantime, Hook said that temporary arrangements will be made to stow the elections equipment which is presently stashed away in the former Medicap building.

“We’re going to repurpose some space that we have,” she added. “But it’s not a long-term solution.”

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