Tuesday, October 26, 1999

Commissioners enjoy new digs

Hamilton also to use offices

Enquirer Contributor

        HAMILTON — Workers are putting the finishing touches on the parking garage and dust still flies in some areas.

        But Butler County commissioners opened the government services center Monday with their first meeting in the gleaming concrete-and-steel structure.

        The 230,000-square-foot building, in the works for four years, cost about $38 million and was paid for with state and county money.

        It will house several county agencies including the commissioners, human services, the treasurer, board of elections and courts.

        Some Hamilton officials also would like to see the area's state and federal legislators open offices in the center.

        The 11-story building will be dedicated in December.

        The commissioners' glass-enclosed hearing room — with lots of woodwork, a raised dais and cushioned benches — looks out on downtown Hamilton and the Butler Regional Highway.

        “It's a historic day for us to be the first meeting in the building,” said Commissioner Courtney Combs. “I was just glad to be part of the first meeting.”County residents will have the convenience of many agencies in one place. And the county can stop paying for leased space that housed the agencies, commissioners said.

        “For the county, it means we are able to be more (accessible) to citizens and serve them better,” Commissioner Mike Fox said. “To Hamilton it means that we are bringing a lot of jobs in the city and keeping a lot of jobs in the city.”

        When he was a state representative, Mr. Fox urged Butler County officials to work together to secure some state money for the project.

        It was gratifying to see the building completed, he said.

        “This new building is for all of Butler County,” Commissioner Charles Furmon said. “It's more of a prominent presence. It's just an exciting time for Butler County.”

        Hamilton will move some of its operations, including council, to an adjoining building under construction.

        “This is the first step,” Hamilton Councilman George McNally said. “It's going to be even grander.”

        County and city officials said the services center — and the employees who work in it — could be a catalyst to revive downtown Hamilton, bringing new shops and restaurants.

        Said Mr. Combs: “No matter how you come into Hamilton, you can see this building. I believe this will be the focal point of Hamilton.”

        The building is the latest addition to the county seat. In downtown, the old opera house and the Anthony Wayne Hotel are being renovated, the city is in the midst of a $5.6 million face lift of High Street, and the Butler Regional Highway is to completely open by year's end.

        The long-awaited regional highway will link the city with Interstate 75, which officials hope will spur investment in downtown Hamilton.

        “This is big city,” Councilman Richard Holzberger said. “Anybody that's down on Hamilton is missing the boat.”


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