The Ottawa County commissioners now have the keys to the former IBC Bank building that sits just north of the courthouse.

Chairman Russell Earls signed lease agreements Thursday as the building officially changed hands from the International Bancshare Corporation to the First National Bank in Miami which will hold the property until it can be sold outright to the county.

Commissioners John Clarke and Kenneth Palmer were not present for the lease signing, but voted Monday to allow Earls to enter into the agreements on their behalf.

Two agreements were executed between the county and Miami's oldest bank, the first is a one-month lease that allows the county to take possession through the end of the fiscal year, June 30. The agreement obligates the county to pay $2,317, representing the accrued interest on the purchase price of the $640,000 building. The county will also pay $317.26 in additional expenses.

The second agreements signed Thursday is a 12-month, lease-purchase agreement which sets out the same obligations as the 30-day lease.

The arrangement between First National Bank and Ottawa County is expected to be short-lived, according to Earls. The county will pay off the debt upon receipt of Rural Economic Action Plan and Community Development Block Grant funding that has been allocated to Ottawa County, but has not yet made it into county coffers.

A portion of the CDBG funding is awaiting the conclusion of an environmental assessment of the former IBC Bank site, according to Earls.

The short-term leasing agreement is necessary, according to assistant district attorney Ben Loring, because the county cannot enter into a binding contract without the funding in hand.

The opportunity to purchase the former bank building, according to Earls, is nothing short of a “gift that fell out of heaven” and landed in the laps of county officials as they were preparing to build a $650,000, metal-framed, 6,000-square-foot annex facility southeast of the courthouse.

“This is a much better use of the money,” Earls said when IBC officials accepted the county's purchase offer in February. “We get a much better building, more square footage, more storage, a vault, a drive-through window and additional parking. For approximately the same amount of money, we are going to get much more.”

Thursday, Earls expressed his appreciation to Jim Thompson and Mike Sexton as they accepted ownership of the former IBC bank on behalf of First National Bank.

“We appreciate you helping us out while we wait for the environmental assessment to be done and the funding to arrive,” Earls said.

Earls said the county has received notification from U.S. Sen. James Inhofe that the anticipated $170,000 CDBG funding has been awarded and will be released at the conclusion of the environmental assessment.

That money will be added with $170,000 in REAP funding that the county set aside last year and earmarked for the annex project.

“The remainder ($310,000) will come from the county's general fund,” Earls said.