MOUNT VERNON — Knox County Commissioners are scheduled this morning to consider approval of a real estate purchase agreement with the Knox County land bank. If approved, the agreement would begin the process of the land bank acquiring, marketing and selling the property at 1375 Newark Road, which is presently occupied by New Hope Industries Inc.
In late June, Commissioner Thom Collier met with NHI officials and said due to several Mount Vernon Industrial Park tenants needing expansion space, NHI would need to move by Dec. 1, giving them five months to do so. NHI CEO Dennis Eggerton and Assistant CEO/Business Manager Angie Wise, in meeting the past week with commissioners during regular meetings, have said that timeline would not nearly give NHI time to find a new location and hire an architect needed to plan renovations, as well as having a contractor renovate a property.
Commissioner Teresa Bemiller said Wednesday that giving NHI additional time to move, if a new occupant is chosen to purchase the property, “is something that is definitely being looked at.”
NHI currently offers a range of client services at the site to those with developmental disabilities, with a manufacturing floor area where 50 developmentally disabled clients assemble and package parts for about a dozen companies at the industrial park. NHI subleases the site from the Knox County Developmental Disabilities board, which in turn leases the county-owned property from county commissioners.
The real estate purchase agreement would involve the land bank buying the property from commissioners at a reserve price set by an appraisal completed Wednesday, land bank President Jeff Gottke said. The land bank, in turn, would market and sell the property to its ultimate “end user” by accepting offers from potential buyers who must outline their specific plans for the property. Gottke said the land bank would in turn choose the buyer with the “highest and best use” for the property.
One of the entities putting in an offer may be NHI.
The site, if sold to an industrial firm and thus requiring NHI to quickly move, has touched off opposition from NHI officials and advocates, who have stressed that work opportunities and social camaraderie for NHI’s developmentally disabled clients has far more value than just an industrial profit/loss margin.
NHI was privatized in 2007 and is a non-profit organization. It has occupied the property since 1981.
County Administrator Jason Booth stressed Wednesday that county government stands to gain no funds from the sale of the property. The property was purchased by the DD board around 1980, and sale proceeds will be turned over to the DD board, he said.