ASHLAND — The director of the county’s Emergency Management Agency said preliminary layouts for its new headquarters on Claremont Avenue need some work.

“What we have now is the first brush on paper — I think there needs to be some input from how (EMA) works and the health department works and make some tweaks to the layout,” said Mark Rafeld, the director of the Ashland County EMA.

Ashland County Commissioners agreed to purchase an empty building at 1211 Claremont Ave. for $850,000 in April. The plan is renovate the building for an estimated $1.5 million to house Ashland County Health Department and the EMA.

Rafeld said he looked over preliminary layouts designed by VSWC Architects earlier this week. The layouts did not include space for various technology equipment the agency needs in order to “function in the way they need to function.”

Specifically, the design was not clear on where a communications room with radio technology would be located, he said.

Rafeld said he has not had a chance to meet with VSWC — who commissioners hired in March for $22,500 — to discuss the layout, but hopes to do so soon.

“It will take some discussion, some give and take,” he said. “But I’m confident that over the next month, we’ll work through some of those things with the health department, along with the commissioners and architects.”

Meanwhile, VSWC narrowed down the list of firms for the job to three, a recommendation commissioners unanimously approved Thursday during the board’s regular meeting.

The firms include Port Clinton-based R.J. Runge Company Inc., Ashland-based Simonson Construction Services Inc. and Copley-based Thomarios, according to a commissioners office document.

Commissioners will evaluate each firm based on previous work references from other clients and how the firm ranks on a 10-question survey. The process will take about two months, with the selection of a firm slated for Aug. 4.

Career center negotiations update

All plans for the empty building hinge on a successful negotiation with the Ashland-West Holmes Career Center, which plans on purchasing the Service Center on State Route 60.

The negotiations stalled in May when Commissioner President Jim Justice said he was “aghast” at the career center’s demand the county pays rent for however longer county departments stay in the building past January 2023.

Justice said he spoke with Superintendent Rod Cheyney in May, and Commissioner Mick Welch said he planned to speak with the school on Thursday.

Justice said he would like to see the building go up for auction, because he believes the building is worth more than the $500,000 the career center offered to pay for it.

“And everybody get’s a fair shot at it,” he said. “So we’ll be looking at that.”

Cheyney was not immediately available to comment.

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