McLennan County garage

McLennan County approved a $500,000 contract for sale with Magnolia Vacation Rentals for the county garage at Seventh Street and Washington Avenue.

Magnolia is poised to purchase a second downtown Waco location from McLennan County.

County commissioners Tuesday approved a $500,000 deal with Magnolia Vacation Rentals LLC for the county garage, 623 Washington Ave. Earlier this month, the company entered into a $1.1 million contract for sale with the county for the Grand Karem Shrine building, which is across Seventh Street.

County officials said it could take a few months to close on the two properties.

Magnolia spokesman John Marsicano acknowledged that the two properties could have a related use.

“If we move forward with the purchase of that (Karem) building, the garage’s convenient location could serve a number of potential purposes,” he wrote in an email.

County Judge Scott Felton said employees at the garage maintain county vehicles and radios, but county leaders are looking to house those operations elsewhere.

“That thing has been a little bit of an eyesore,” Felton said. “They’ve since cleaned it up and it looks quite a bit better.

“It’s a prime piece of property, even though half a million is not a lot of money for downtown property, but the amount of improvements that will be put on it after purchase, possibly, or how it will be used, could increase what goes back on the tax rolls,” Felton said.

The contract for sale includes a clause that allows the maintenance department to continue using the garage for a year, Felton said.

A similar clause was included in the contract for sale of the Grand Karem Shrine building, which houses the county health services department and the child support court.

“We’re real close to where we can say where it’s all going,” Felton said.

The property is now valued at $581,490, according to the McLennan County Appraisal District.

The county has operated its garage there since 1987, when it bought the former Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. for $135,000, according to county documents. The county garage was previously on South 20th Street, County Administrator Dustin Chapman said.

Grand Karem Shrine building

Magnolia Vacation Rentals has a contract to buy the Grand Karem Shrine building, built in 1928.

Commissioners hired commercial real estate broker Jim Peevey at Reid Peevey Real Estate Co. on May 15 to market the Grand Karem Shrine building after a failed attempt to attract buyers through a bid process. The county entered an agreement with Magnolia on July 11 for the 90-year-old building at 701 Washington Ave. Commissioners then contracted with Peevey to market the county garage property.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, county commissioners agreed to lower the tax rate 2 cents as they have previously discussed.

Commissioners voted to propose a tax rate of 48.5293 cents per $100 of property value for fiscal year 2019, which starts Oct. 1. The tax rate is down two cents from 2018, four cents from 2017 and five cents from 2016.

The proposed rate is nearly 1.4 cents above the effective tax rate, or the rate needed to bring in the previous year’s revenue.

Commissioners filed the fiscal year 2019 proposed budget with the county clerk for public inspection. The county will hold two public hearings on the tax rate: 5:30 p.m. Aug. 16 and 9 a.m. Aug. 21. Both meetings will be in the commissioners courtroom on the first floor of the McLennan County Courthouse, 501 Washington Ave. Commissioners are scheduled to adopt the budget and tax rate Aug. 28, after the public hearing on the budget.

Cassie L. Smith has covered county government for the Tribune-Herald since June 2014. She previously worked as a reporter for the Beaumont Enterprise and The Eagle in Bryan-College Station. Smith graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington.

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