The Russ House, Beauty or Beast?
This week the TIMES visited with the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce President/CEO, Jeff Massey, to find out more about the possible sale of the Russ house. Mr. Massey stated that the house has now been on the market for a year. The Chamber has already been to the Tourist Development Council on one occasion with an offer to sell, but the Board of County Commissioners didn't accept that initial proposal to sell the Russ house to the Tourist Development council for $235,000. The primary motivation to find a solution to sell the Russ house to the Tourist Development Council is to respect the desire to keep the Russ house open to the public because it is a Jackson County historical icon. The Chamber has now decided to lower the price even more, trying to stimulate that interest of keeping it open to the community.
Massey stated that his main objective in his new role as CEO of the Chamber is to increase the level of services that the Chamber is providing its members. "We want to become the voice for business in Jackson County, working to enhance the success of all economic activity in our area," Massey explained. "I am eager to get the issue with the Russ House behind us so we can look more to the future role of the Chamber."
The Chambers Board has approved to take a new sales offer to the Tourist Development Council at their next board meeting. The meeting will be held Wednesday September 18th at 10:00 am. It is hoped that this new offer from the Chamber will result in the Russ house being sold to the Tourist Development Council. The new asking price for the Russ House is $195,000, and five years of free rent.
If the Tourist Development Council Board were to accept this offer, it would then have to be approved by the Board of County Commissioners, because the Tourist Development Councils funds are controlled by the County Commission. Those monies are made available for use through the Board of County Commissioners from the 4% bed tax funds collected by all inns, motels, and campgrounds in the county. If the TDC Board approves the purchase, the proposal would then move to the agenda for the Board of County Commissioners for final approval and release of funds.
Mr. Massey said that when the house was first put on the market it was at a high price. Then the Chamber Board has set the price for private sale at $265,000. The reason they decided to lower the price is because they felt that they had priced themselves out of the range of what people would be interested in. Even though it is less money now, the Chamber is exercising its right to see what will happen with the Tourist Development Council before again approaching a private sale. Their desire is to keep the Russ house in public hands. The Chamber certainly hopes things work out with the Tourist Development Council so that they can become the new owners. If this happens, it would insure that visitors would continue to enjoy access to this beautiful home when they visit our county.
No other offers will be considered while the Tourist Development Council is evaluating this new offer. Even though it is for sale on the public market, the Chamber is offering the Tourist Development Council the first right of refusal. If that doesn't happen they would then seriously consider any other offers.
Unfortunately the Chamber is not funded in a way which will enable it to afford continuing care of the Russ house in the way that the house needs to be kept up. The Chamber gets its revenue through membership dues and donations.
If the Chamber could turn the Russ house ownership over to the Tourist Development Council it would then no longer be the Chambers house. The Chamber might end up being a tenant in the new arrangement, or they might not. The Chamber might physically stay in the house, or move next door into the Brown house next door to the Russ House, or even move off site. The sale to the Tourist Development Council would relieve the Chamber of the burden of maintenance of the Russ House and place that responsibility with an organization that can better afford it.
Stay tuned for further developments!