Could Community First become new City Hall?? Don’t bank on it ­ yet

Could Community First become new City Hall?? Don't bank on it � yet Community First National Bank and local government officials are exploring whether it may be feasible for Vermillion to purchase the bank building to replace the aging City Hall. by David Lias Local government officials and executives of Community First National Bank are exploring the possibility of Vermillion purchasing the bank's modern two-story building to replace its aging City Hall.

And Roxanne Miller, president of the bank, wants to make sure that the community and her customers know that while this notion of the city taking ownership of the structure is being bounced around, no firm decisions have yet been made.

Some community members, she said, have been spreading the word that the city and the bank have already struck a deal.

That speculation, Miller said, is not correct.

"We have heard things, such as the bank building has been sold, we've heard prices, we've heard how much renovation is going to be done, and that is so far from the facts that I just wanted to set it straight," she said.

Miller said bank executives and the city have been communicating about Vermillion's possible purchase of the building for approximately six weeks.

"My understanding is we are just in the initial stages of the negotiation process," Miller said. "No timeline has been set. No price has been discussed."

Miller said the Vermillion location of Community First is part of a bankholding company that is very strong financially.

"We are very committed to our location, our city," she said.

Miller said she has had no conversations with corporate office personnel about where Community First Bank would relocate should the city and the bank agree on the building purchase.

"The reason that I approached Jim (Patrick, Vermillion's city manager) about looking at the bank building is because our industry has been changing due to technology and centralization," Miller said. "It seemed like a good time for us to look at this opportunity so we could move to a bank that would better fit our current needs."

The bank building was constructed in 1981, on the site of Vermillion's very first city hall on Main Street, when Vern Holter was the financial institution's president.

The end result was a state-of-the art facility, Miller said.

Community First's insurance agency was originally located on the building's second floor. Twelve years ago, the agency

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moved to the main floor, and the second floor has remained vacant.

The building also has a full basement. Its space is rented to the local alternative high school.

"The idea behind the building at that time was a good one," she said.

Patrick noted that the banking industry has undergone phenomenal changes in the past decade, and is still adapting.

"It's going through a phenomenal change in structure and downsizing its brick and mortar type stuff, and trying to be as compact and fluid as possible to react to changes," Patrick said.

Much of the "backroom" type of work, such as processing and credit checks that used to be done locally in the banking industry is now commonly completed at a centralized, out-of-town location.

"We are interested in doing at least some due diligence at this point," Patrick said. "We are waiting on an appraiser's report; we are waiting on a structural engineer and an architect to come back with some numbers on what would be required to modify this (building) to change it to our needs."

At the same time, Patrick is negotiating with property owners of other sites being considered as locations for the new City Hall.

Those sites include Fullerton Lumber, located on Main Street near the Clay County Courthouse, the current City Hall location, and property on Crawford Road located south of the Assembly of God Church.

"This (Community First) isn't our prime location. We haven't made an offer," he said.

"This is an opportunity for us, and we look forward to continuing to help Vermillion grow and prosper," Miller said.

If the city purchases the building, Patrick said, it would also contain office space for the Vermillion school administration.

Other major modifications likely would be required, he said.

Patrick said the city would like to try to make a decision fairly quickly on which site to purchase for the new City Hall. He hopes that the city could make a purchase offer sometime in July.

"I think the key is to keep property owners informed, and to try to narrow the field," Patrick said. "We want to try to narrow in on at least one site with an option to purchase, so we can let the other property owners know we aren't interested."

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