County committee rejects Baptist Building site
JEFFERSON CITY – The on-again-off-again interest of Cole County officials in purchasing the Baptist Building appears to be dead once and for all.
The Cole County Law Enforcement Advisory Committee has accepted a subcommittee recommendation that the Baptist Building no longer be considered as a possible site for a new Cole County Jail/Sheriff’s facility, the Jefferson City News Tribune reported in a front page story July 7.
The recommendation identifies more than one suitable location in downtown Jefferson City near the Baptist Building, but does not include the Baptist Building, officials said.
“I can say that there are locations in a three-block area within the vicinity of the Baptist Building that are city owned, that could support a jail/sheriff’s facility,” advisory committee chair Steve Waters told the News Tribune.
The Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) agreed to sell the building, home of the MBC since 1970, to Cole County in August 2004 for $2.75 million. However, the sale was contingent upon two factors: That Cole County purchase some adjoining parcels of privately owned property by declaring eminent domain if necessary, and approval by voters of a half-cent sales tax that would have funded the acquisition and subsequent demolition of the structure, clearing the way for a proposed $36 million justice center. Voters rejected the sales tax hike by a 74.4 percent to 25.6 percent margin on Feb. 8, 2005, causing the deal to collapse.
“We want to avoid issues of eminent domain, if we can,” Waters was quoted as saying in the News Tribune’s July 7 story.
Former MBC President David Tolliver, now an MBC associate executive director, appointed a relocation study committee in 2004. Tolliver made the appointments after it was determined that escalating utility and maintenance costs for the 78-year-old structure were likely to worsen. It was the study committee, along with MBC Executive Director David Clippard, who negotiated the deal voters rejected.
There had been rumors in recent months over whether the county was still interested in the Baptist Building. The county apparently reconsidered the site before rejecting it – for what appears to be a final time – earlier this month.
Jefferson City business leaders have said they want to keep the MBC and its approximately 75 jobs in the state capital. It is not known if the latest developments could jeopardize Jefferson City’s chances of keeping the headquarters of Missouri’s largest evangelical denomination in the city.
The MBC relocation study committee has made no public statements about the status of the sale in more than a year. The building remains for sale and MBC leaders have said that once the building is sold that the search for a new site will be statewide.