Commissioners sign Family Court reimbursement agreement, await approval of lease

March 2, 2019 GMT

HUNTINGTON - Cabell County commissioners this week signed a new reimbursement agreement for the county’s Family Court, Adult Drug Court and Juvenile Drug Court.

However, commissioners said they don’t believe the building’s landlords will agree to a renewed lease after they previously complained of operating at a loss with high utility expenses.

In early 2017, commissioners agreed to move the Family Court and drug courts out of the Cabell County Courthouse and into the second and third floors of the building at 746 4th Ave., which is owned by Davis and Dixon LLC.

During a commission meeting in January, landlords Paul Davis and Shawn Dixon asked commissioners to help cover a third of the building’s expenses, while they paid for the remainder.

The landlords said high utilities and maintenance costs were causing them to operate the building at a loss, even though the rent is being covered by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, which reimburses the county.

On Thursday, commissioners signed a new reimbursement agreement with the state Supreme Court, which agreed to pay $12 a square foot, or $10,838 a month.

The Supreme Court had previously paid $11 a square foot, but agreed to pay more after representatives toured the building and spoke with Davis and Dixon.

Commission President Nancy Cartmill said she doesn’t believe Davis and Dixon will agree to the county’s proposed lease, which only agrees to pay the reimbursed rent and not more money the landlords had requested.

“If they don’t want to accept the offer, then we will probably have to find another place for Family Court,” Cartmill said. “We are pretty comfortable the way it is. You hate to see all that happen, but they haven’t been able to rent the rest of their building and I think that’s a big problem for them financially.”

Cartmill said the problem is the county does not have extra money to help cover expenses. The landlords had asked for help in paying for utilities and other expenses, such as cleaning supplies.

Davis and Dixon previously told commissioners it costs approximately $17,000 a month to operate the building, after utilities and taxes, meaning they have to cover approximately $7,000 out of their own pockets when rent is paid.

Cartmill said the state Supreme Court has agreed to pay $12 a square foot, which is among the highest reimbursement rates in the state. The state Supreme Court also reimburses Monongalia County for $12 a square foot, but all other counties are reimbursed less, she said.

Cabell County Attorney Bill Watson said the county is not obligated to go through with the contract if Davis and Dixon do not agree to the terms. It will be “null and void” if they do not sign it, he said.

Davis and Dixon were expected to make a decision before the current lease expires July 1.

Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.