Council mulls buying former bank building

The former Wells Fargo Bank branch, as seen in this July 2021 photo. The Payette City Council began its discussion on whether to purchase its building, now for sale, during its regular meeting Monday.

PAYETTE — To buy or no to buy? That’s the question posed by Payette City Councilor Daniel Lopez, regarding the former Wells Fargo Bank building in downtown Payette going up for sale. As previously reported by the newspaper, the branch closed for in-person services due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic and as part of Wells Fargo’s planned adjustment of services, and is presently operating as an “ATM-only” location.

The building is also adjacent to Payette City Hall. At its regular meeting Monday, the Payette City Council discussed Lopez’ suggestion to consider the purchase.

“The city hall … Yeah, it’s a little crowded, and obviously I don’t have a glamorous office in there,” admitted Mayor Jeff Williams. “It doesn’t bother me at all, but that may be something that the City Council would like to think about. But I think the real challenge is our police department. They’re busting at the seams.”

City officials are in two minds about the potential for city uses. One one hand, Payette Police Chief Gary Marshall has expressed that his department is starting to feel a need for additional space.

“We eliminated two parking spaces” for needed storage, said Marshall.

Lopez asked for the building to be considered at this meeting, because of its potential value to the city.

“I looked at the price point; They’re [NAI Commercial Property Services] listing it for $370,000,” said Lopez. “We can’t build anything cheaper than that, really … and it’s a nice building, it’s right here next to us.”

On the other hand, some officials are concerned about losing potential tax revenue the building could generate if bought by a private entity.

“I don’t think it’s a bad thing to discuss, but I’d like to see what people would want to buy it, because it’s on Main Street,” said Councilor Ray Wickersham. “It would take a lot of work on the inside.”

Wickersham estimated it would cost an additional $150,000 to renovate the building for government use.

“Any time a government buys property, it takes it off the tax base,” Williams added.

“Six months down the road, they may want a little less if it hasn’t sold,” noted Councilor Craig Jensen. “One thing I worry about is when we do take over property that was tax base … When you take part of the income away that we’re using to help fund our citizens’ budgets.”

Jensen also observed Marshall’s department has a five-year strategic plan to further renovate the police department to maximize space, which has not yet been budgeted for by city officials.

“The issue we run into is when we take away space inside and we move everything [patrol vehicles, etc], it’s going to result in additional costs for securing our property, protecting our vehicles and everything we have to do outside.”

Jensen said he wishes to revisit the issue once businesses have had a chance to buy the building first.

Other options seemed viable in prior years, according to Williams; The local Idaho National Guard Armory had been considered for liquidation, which did not happen.

“I’m not sure where it needs to go,” he said.

Still, Williams noted, more people moving to Payette over the next decade may make it necessary to expand.

“As people move in, government grows. I’ve said this a hundred times, if government’s a money-gobbling machine, it never gets less hungry.”

Regardless of the council’s position on the matter, the purchase is not planned for in the city’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget. This would have to be considered as part of the planning for Fiscal Year 2023, as noted by Lopez.

Load comments