La Plata County has expressed interest in purchasing a building across from the courthouse to keep government offices downtown.
The property owner, Edward O. Sittner Jr. of Las Vegas, said Thursday that he has agreed in principle to sell the building to the county.
The building at 1075 East Second Ave. most recently hosted Schluter Floral, which has moved to 2075 Main Ave. Before Schluter, Greeley Gas inhabited the property. The La Plata County Assessor's Office lists the property's value as $690,460.
Sheryl Rogers, county attorney, recently sent a letter of intent to purchase the property to Sittner. Sittner said he signed the agreement.
"It's very important that the courthouse stays downtown," Sittner said.
Rogers cautioned that the letter of intent is not binding, and the two parties are not yet close to signing a contract.
"We're very early in the process," she said.
County officials have been looking for additional office space, saying the courthouse is at capacity.
"We've outgrown our current facility, and so we have to make efforts at trying to expand in some fashion," County Commissioner Wally White said last week.
The building under consideration is 4,400 square feet, so it may provide only a temporary fix. By contrast, the courthouse is 80,000 square feet.
Business leaders have lobbied county officials to keep government offices downtown, saying their presence supports the area's economic vitality. They specifically urged county officials to keep the Clerk and Recorder's office downtown.
Downtown businesses have seen softening sales. Sales-tax revenue in the Central Business District declined 5.7 percent in March from the same month in 2008. The figure reflects business activity during the previous month.
John Wells, chairman of the Business Improvement District board, said it made sense for the county to pursue the property.
"It's a logical step for the county to acquire available property when they're at virtually 100 percent capacity at the courthouse," he said.
Wells added that Sittner's building is between two county office buildings, the courthouse at 1060 East Second Ave. and the former post office building at 1060 Main Ave., where the county treasurer and district attorney maintain offices.