ASHLAND — A deal involving the Ashland County Board of Commissioners and the Ashland County-West Holmes Career Center that was previously stalled is now moving forward.

The Ashland County Board of Commissioners officially approved a $500,000 purchase agreement between it and the career center on Thursday with a 2-1 vote.

The Ashland County-West Holmes Career Center will purchase the county’s service center located at 1763 State Route 60 (which currently houses the Ashland County Health Dept., EMA, and other entities) no later than July 29, according to the purchase and sale agreement signed by commissioners.

Commissioners did not speak in-depth about the deal during Thursday’s meeting. Commissioner Mike Welch, however, said he supports the deal because it serves as a “tool in our toolbox for workforce development.”

Commissioner Jim Justice, who served as the county’s main negotiator in the deal until Welch stepped in when those talks went south, said he wouldn’t sign the agreement. He was the lone dissenting vote on the deal.

Justice said in May during a regular commissioners’ meeting the school demanded the county pay a high rent for each month the county health department and Emergency Management Agency stayed in the building past January 2023.

That part of the deal went away after Welch took over negotiations recently.

Instead, the county agreed to pay for the cost of snow removal and mowing the 24-acre property. The school will pick up the tab for utilities through the end of the year, but the county will take those over in January.

The deal also shows Ashland Parenting Plus, Lucinda Arnold and Ground Work Play Therapy as tenants in the 37,908 square-foot service center.

Jason Chio, a board member for the career center, said those entities have agreed to move out of the building in the fall because their leases will not be renewed. In the meantime, those entities will pay rent to the county.

The agreement also says the county will “have repaired the sanitary sewer line located on a portion of the Park District’s property … to allow the free flow of wastewater.”

Ashland County Maintenance Supervisor Dennis Harris said that work has been done. He said the issue was debris clogging up the line.

“But we got it cleared,” he said. “It was more of a cleaning out debris that had collected since 1975. But it’s clear.”

Chio said the school plans to hold a special meeting Thursday to vote on the purchase agreement.

“I look forward to it being well accepted,” he said of the deal. “It should be a slam dunk.”

To review, the health department and EMA are expected to move into a vacant building commissioners bought for $850,000 that is located along Claremont Avenue.

The restoration of that building has been estimated to cost $1.5 million and commissioners have said it could be June 2023 before the health department and EMA move in.

The career center plans to remodel the service center building, which is located next door, as part of a $43 million project meant to expand adult education programs and update administrative offices.

The school district has worked on the project since 2019, when the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission put the school at the top of the list of career technical schools for state aid to improve existing facilities.

Voters in Ashland and Holmes counties approved a 1.1-mill permanent improvement levy in November to pay for the work.

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