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Bill Callander, of Medford, walks out of Medford's Post Office after mailing his taxes. Mail Tribune Photo / Jamie Lusch - Jamie Lusch

County could buy Medford post office building

Jackson County is considering the purchase of the four-story U.S. post office building in downtown Medford to create a massive health and human services complex that could consolidate as many as 750 county and state employees under one roof.

"In light of the fact there are so many service agencies scattered around Medford and other locations, it would be nice to have one-stop shopping," said Commissioner C.W. Smith.

Located at 333 W. Eighth St., the building has more than 80,000 square feet of office space and is on the market for $3.3 million.

By comparison, Medford City Hall is 55,000 square feet. The county Assessor's Office pegs the market value of the post office building at just over $2 million.

Although discussions are still ongoing, the county and the federal government have not finalized any sale, nor have they come to an agreement on price.

The federal government has the building up for sale as part of its consolidation of Postal Service operations throughout the country. The post office also has its Central Point building up for sale. The postal operations would not necessarily move if the Medford building were sold, but instead the postal service could lease space from the new owner.

Apart from the first floor where the Postal Service is located, the building is vacant. U.S. Forest Service operations were moved years ago and now share space with the Bureau of Land Management on Biddle Road.

County Administrator Danny Jordan said the county is putting together a deal that would not require any taxpayer financing.

Jordan said if a purchase agreement can be reached, the county would pay for the building and remodeling with money dedicated for that purpose in the health and human services budget.

The county's health services operations are outgrowing their facilities and will need more offices if the new building isn't purchased.

"We're going to have to rent more space or buy more space than we have now," Jordan said.

If the county buys the post office building, it could sell off some of its other properties that now house health services.

In addition, the county is negotiating with the state, which has expressed interest in placing its own health and human services operations in the same building.

Jordan said the ongoing state budget problems could put that idea on hold.

If the state eventually decides to move into the post office building, the county could remodel and expand the warehouse portion at the back, adding approximately 100,000 square feet.

The remodelling could be paid through revenue bonds the county would secure based on leasing a portion of the building to the state.

If the state's social services operations moved into the building with the county, that would mean up to 750 employees would be housed in the downtown.

Jordan said he doesn't have estimates on total costs yet, but said it would be far less than the $30 million to $50 million pricetag for constructing a new government building of that size.

Although commissioners haven't approved the idea, it's been discussed internally at the county, with even a suggestion that the name of the building could be the Hank Collins' Memorial Social Services Facility. Hank Collins was a former county health services director who died in 2008.

Commissioner Smith said most people aren't aware of all the county services in such areas as veterans, children, inoculations and mental health.

Smith said that among county functions, only the health and humans services operations would be moved into the building. Other operations, including those at the Jackson County Courthouse, would remain where they are.

Post office operations could continue at both the Medford and Central Point locations depending on what happens during the sale.

Peter Hass, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service, said the post office also could move out of the building if it doesn't work with the buyers.

He said the government has received numerous inquiries about the building.

Currently, Hass said, the Eighth Street site handles only retail mailings and provides Post Office boxes. Mail processing is handled at its Sage Road facility. Mail carriers are based out of the downtown Medford building, though.

The city of Medford previously had considered the building for possible expansion.

Harvey Bragg, deputy county administrator, said he had previous conversations with Mike Dyal, Medford's city manager, in which Dyal expressed some interest in the building if the county negotiations didn't pan out.

Bill Hoke, Medford's deputy city manager, confirmed the city had considered the possibilities of buying the building in the past, but said there have been no recent conversations about it.

"We haven't placed an offer on the building or anything like that," he said. "Nobody's told me to go over and make an offer on it."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or e-mail dmann@mailtribune.com.

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