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Industrial center officials seek more information on JCIDA building project

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Paul Morgan had no clue that the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency was considering a new building in the Watertown Industrial Center off Starbuck Avenue.

Mr. Morgan is a board member for the Watertown Industrial Center for Business and Industry, and he had not heard that JCIDA officials already were reviewing blueprints for a new facility that would be built on WIC property. WIC board members should have been apprised of that, he said.

William J. Soluri, the industrial center’s site manager, said he, too, was surprised to learn that JCIDA had hired Aubertine & Currier Architects, and that the firm drew up blueprints for a new facility when the last he heard, about a year ago, was that the project was on the back burner.

“Usually, that would go to the board,” he said, noting it had been “bypassed” in hiring the engineering firm.

After being questioned about the situation by Mr. Morgan and other WIC board members, Mr. Soluri said he approached JCIDA officials to find out more about the plans. He and WIC board Chairman Donald W. Rutherford met a couple of weeks ago with JCIDA CEO Donald C. Alexander to talk about it.

JCIDA also is considering expanding existing offices at the business center, moving into other space there or possibly building or moving off site.

The agency needs the additional space to accommodate three employees who will join its staff, Mr. Alexander has said. It has leased a five-office suite in the WIC since its inception.

Contacted about the WIC board’s concerns, Mr. Alexander insisted the plans “are very early in the process.” He said he had mentioned to it to his board a handful of times and his board had its first meeting on it last Tuesday.

A facilities committee will start exploring “options,” he said, adding that Mr. Soluri was aware of the possibility of either building or moving into other space.

It would cost about $700,000 to build a 5,500-square-foot structure in a WIC parking lot, and about $365,000 to renovate enough space in Building B, next to its current space in Building A, or to expand its 2,200-square-foot space.

It will take two or three months to put together a more definitive strategy on what to do, he said.

Mr. Alexander called constructing a new building or moving off-site and finding a developer to build elsewhere “unlikely” choices, leaving expanded space in the WIC facilities as the probable choice.

The WIC facilities are about 37 percent occupied, with several different kinds of companies leasing office or manufacturing space.

But WIC is in the process of evicting one of its largest tenants, Junction Boyz, because of about $225,00 in delinquent payments of rent and utilities, as of Aug. 31. The company also owes $11,218 for a loan it has with the agency for a paint booth Junction Boyz installed at the center.

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