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Commission weighing Mt. Airy hospital offer

Hamilton County Commissioners continue to weigh an offer to turn the former Mercy Mount Airy hospital into a new crime lab.

Catholic Health Partners is willing to give the facility to the county for free and the county coroner says the cost to renovate the old hospital would be a lot less than building a whole new crime lab. To make the deal cost effective, however, the county wants to move the Board of Elections out there as well.

Commissioner Greg Hartmann calls a new crime lab the county's number one capital need. "I'm hopeful the Board of Elections can come to some agreement and resolution that makes our job easier," he says. "If we can relocate those two functions in a 500,000 square foot facility, it makes a much easier decision."

Right now the county leases the board's downtown headquarters. Opponents say moving the Board of Elections to Mount Airy would make it harder for some people to vote.

Commissioners Todd Portune and Chris Monzel both say they'd support some kind of continued downtown satellite voting facility downtown. "We know we have empty space in other county buildings downtown," says Monzel. "The point would be, where would we put it? ... I'm open to that."

The Board of Elections is slated to vote Monday on the moving proposal. During a meeting earlier this week, the board split 2-2 on the issue.

Even though the hospital space would be a gift, the county would still need to find the money to pay for renovations. It's not clear where those funds would come from. A Commission majority say they wouldn't support a sales tax.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.