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Council agrees to sell City Hall

ORANGE — Despite citizens speaking against the relocation of city offices to 16th Street, Orange City Council approved purchasing the 1st Financial Bank during the Tuesday morning meeting.

Leslie Barras, of Orange, spoke the council during citizen comments and asked the council to delay voting on the purchase, as City Hall is the heart of Orange.

“I am will to donate funds and my time for an architectural report,” Barras said.

Barras said she obtained a copy of a report, which was four pages long, and more of a punch list.

“It did not cover anything concerning the electrical or the plumbing,” Barras said. “The staff may have discussed this, but for the public this is Day Zero.”

Barras said the council should consider a citizens advisory board and conduct public hearings on the matter.

“This is wrong for the city and the community,” Barras said.

Another citizen, former council member Annette Pernell, said the action is an example of a failure to communicate.

“The Orange Comprehensive Master Plan reflects centralization of Orange in Downtown,” Pernell said. “It is part of centralizing city services.”

The purchase price is $2,000,000 with a lease back of $10,000 a month.

The property is valued at $4,750,000 according to a memorandum dated Dec. 21 from City Manager Dr. Shawn Oubre to the mayor and the city council members.

One resident was also concerned with the plans for the bank.

“Only one appraisal was listed,” Sharon Odegar said. “What were the other appraisals? Does First Financial plan to move out of town?”

A representative from the bank spoke outside of chambers while the council met in executive session. He said the bank is not planning on moving out of town but relocating to a smaller building.

“The heritage of Orange is important,” Odegar said. “The $2 million could be spent to do work on the existing building or build an annex like the courthouse. It is what makes Orange, Orange.”

During negotiations, it was learned the management of First Financial Bank is willing to make a donation of $2,750,000 to lower the price of the property to the $2,000,000.

Orange City Hall houses the Personnel office and Billing and Collection office are located on the first floor of the building. The offices of the City Manager, City Secretary, and Finance Department are located on the second floor.

Orange City Hall, 803 West Green Avenue, was originally the home of E.W. Brown, Jr., a prominent Orange businessman and philanthropist. The City of Orange purchased the building in 1944.

Orange Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) is located behind the building.