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Driver Testing Center lease negotiations
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A lease agreement between the city of McMinnville and the state’s Department of Safety could have one area of contention – how long the Driver Testing Center will be allowed to use the basement of City Hall.
According to Alderman Mike Neal, he is not the only official on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen with a desire to reduce the state’s lease agreement to less than five years with an option to renew for an additional five years.
In an email from city attorney Tim Pirtle to all board members and sent to the Southern Standard by Neal, Vice Mayor Ben Newman also expressed reservations on the lease length.
“A reservation has been expressed by Vice Mayor Newman with regard to the term of five years with an option to the state for a five-year renewal,” said Pirtle. “He recommends a two-year term with one-year renewal if agreed by the parties.”
Pirtle, who is negotiating with a state attorney over the lease, asked for input on Newman’s recommendation via email to all board member but encouraged them to avoid breaking the Sunshine Law in their reply.
“The Board must approve the lease in final form, but I need to know your position on the term of the lease for purposes of negotiation,” said Pirtle. “Please let me know your position on the term but reply only to me to avoid implications of the Sunshine Law. Please do not ‘Reply All.’”
In a follow-up email from Pirtle to board members, the consensus of the board is to reduce the length.
“The consensus of the aldermen supports a two year for the lease with the state with an option for an additional year by mutual agreement of the parties,” said Pirtle. “The mayor is concerned the state will be reluctant to enter a lease with such a short term after investing in the wiring, moving expenses, etc. He also mentioned the Legislature might be authorizing reimbursement to the city for the cost of build-out.”
At least one board member must have requested information on the Regions Bank’s lease because Pirtle included that in his follow-up email.
 “I checked the lease with the bank on the lobby,” Pirtle said. “Its lease expires in four years on June 1, 2020.”
Pirtle requested more input about the issue from board members.
“Please give this issue your continuing consideration because I will require your guidance and authorization in finalizing the negotiation of the proposed lease,” he said.
The issue regarding the lease agreement length got testy Tuesday during a fact-finding session between city officials and state representatives. During that meeting, Neal expressed a desire to shorten the state’s stay to less than five years and Department of Safety facility director Mike Boshers said the state could reconsider its decision to move into City Hall.
Mayor Haley intervened and stated, “Let our lawyers talk about it because that’s coming from an aldermen. That’s not necessarily the desire of the board.”
Neal asked the Standard for clarification that he is not the only board member with concerns regarding the state’s length of stay.