Washington Chamber plans to save historic building, move offices

WASHINGTON — The Washington County Board of Supervisors was briefed on a potential $2 million effort by the Washington Chamber of Commerce to save a historic Washington home on Tuesday, Sept. 10.

Chamber Executive Director Michelle Redlinger told the supervisors that the Chamber’s board of directors has been discussing the idea of saving the Smouse House located at 321 South Iowa Avenue for over two years. The property may be better known as the former location of a number of restaurants such as the Captain’s Table. It has been vacant for approximately seven years and is need of major repairs.

“We had hoped someone else would save the building which has become an eyesore in the community,” she said, “but that has not happened.”

Redlinger said the Chamber will be holding meetings with members and the general public in late September and early October to discuss the possibility of purchasing the property, saving the home, then relocating the cramped offices of the Chamber and its partners to the home and creating a new Welcome Center there.

“If the membership is supportive of the idea and the board votes to proceed, there would be three phases of the project,” she said. The first phase would be to rehabilitate and save the building. The second phase would be to move the Chamber, Main Street Washington, the Washington Economic Development Group and the Washington County Riverboat Foundation into the home while creating a new Welcome Center there. The third stage would be determining the use and developing the addition of the home.

When asked the cost of the project, Redlinger said a structural engineer’s report commissioned by the Chamber indicated the cost to save the building would be between $1.5 and $2 million.

“We’ve been advised that the engineer making the report is conservative on his estimates, so we are going with $2 million,” she said. “The City of Washington has committed $500,000 in TIF money toward the project and Main Street Washington and the Chamber have identified $3 million in grants that we believe we qualify for.”

“Hopefully this project will go through,” Supervisor Richard Young said. “The building is an eyesore. This is a good project.”

In other business, the supervisors:

• Voted to approve a recommendation of County Engineer Jacob Thorius to accept the low bid of $40,022.50 from Leichty and Sons to upgrade and rock a portion of 285th Street with 100 percent of the cost to be paid by landowners John and Jenna Greiner;

• Approved a series of six resolutions related to public highway easements related to road projects costing the county a total of $9,529.44;

• Set Sept. 24 as the date for a public hearing related to contracts for the Washington County Communications Center;

• Approved a resolution to authorize the county engineer to execute an agreement with the Department of Transportation to receive $10,000 in reimbursement funds for the previous purchase of a Truax Flex II 8655 no-till drill and

• Went into closed session to discuss the purchase of particular real estate where premature disclosure could reasonably be expected to increase the price the county would have to pay for the property.