ASHLAND — Ashland County commissioners on Thursday approved a purchase agreement of the former Pump House building for $300,000.

The 44,000 square-foot building will be sold to the city of Ashland. The Community Improvement Corporation of Ashland will then purchase the building from the city, and then a Columbus developer will purchase it from the CIC.

The reason for this is so the county can sell property to the city outside of competitive bidding, said Andrew Bush, an assistant law director for the city of Ashland.

“The county does not have the ability to sell to a Community Improvement Corporation outside of competitive bidding like the city does,” he said.

A firm based out of Columbus, Vision Development, has promised to buy the vacant building in order to demolish it and build up to 50 apartments in its place.

Vision also bought 19 parcels totaling five acres in the so-called Pump House District in July, with plans to build up to 150 apartment units and other commercial spaces such as restaurants and shops.

The development will surround a planned “urban meadow,” which has been said will feature ultra-modern art, concrete walking pads, a steel tree, outdoor musical instruments and a sun dial.

Brent Wrightsel, the owner and president of Vision Development, has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

According to the purchase agreement, the county will be able to access 30 parking spaces in the former Pump House building’s parking lot to use primarily for Ashland County Job and Family Services employees.

Commissioner Denny Bittle said many items within the building will be removed, including utility equipment such as a boiler, electrical panels and a fire sprinkler control system.

The items will then be transferred to other county-owned buildings. The Pump House’s $19,000 boiler, for example, will likely be used at the new dog shelter, Bittle said. The electrical panels could be used in the building along Claremont Avenue that is being renovated to someday house the health department.

Bittle also said the Ashland County Historical Society had the opportunity to walk through the building in order to request certain pieces of historical value.

Jennifer Marquette, executive director of the historical society, said they found interesting pieces she hopes the organization can put on display in the near future.

Ashland Mayor Matt Miller has said the building’s new owner will pay for surveys of the property and officials have said the property’s crumbling retaining wall along Church Street will be the responsibility of the new owners.

Commissioner Mike Welch said commissioners “took some heat” on the Pump House building when it was first purchased in September 2020.

Commissioners voted 2-1 in favor of purchasing the building from the Ashland County Land Reutilization Corporation, or land bank, for $146,000 — against the advice of Ashland County Auditor Cindy Funk and Ashland County Prosecutor Chris Tunnell.

Since then and up through September, the building has cost taxpayers $293,296.17, according to a county spreadsheet tracking utility bills on the building. The figure includes other repairs made to the building.

“But I think it was worth it,” Welch said.

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