Some confusion was resolved during Thursday morning’s Riley County commission meeting Thursday morning.
Commissioners heard from Richard Gallagher of the First Christian Church in Manhattan, who addressed the board about conflicting reports on the county’s intentions and time table of a possible purchase of the church, which is located across the Commission Chambers at 115 Courthouse Plaza.
“We need to know the seriousness from the county in offering to buy our church property,” Gallagher said. “And we need to have your response just as soon as possible.”
Although the current commission is exploring the idea of purchasing the church to expand county offices, it was a previous commission that was more aggressive in the venture in 2013. The current commission has no immediate plans to purchase the church and the land it’s on. At the same time, Gallagher said the property, which has been on the market, has interest from other parties. The church is looking to build a new facility.
“Our church has been a neighbor of the Riley County offices for many years, and we have shared a parking lot for many years as well,” Gallagher said. “And the church has been located at its current location for about 150 years.”
Gallagher referenced media reports about the county’s intentions to buy the property and conversations he’s had with members of the commission.
“I personally was recently contacted by a commissioner, asking about our future plans with selling the property, moving, timeline and so-forth,” he said.
Commissioner Robert Boyd said the county is simply exploring ideas.
“What I told you, that day on the phone, was that we had nothing — we were inquiring about what our options are,” Boyd said.
Gallagher told the board that church leaders are also in conversations with others interested in the property. According to a 2016 tax evaluation, the building and property is valued at just over $1.2 million.
Commissioner Ron Wells told Gallagher that his frustrations are largely with Manhattan Free Press publisher Jon Brake, who he believes has misled readers on the issue.
“We have never made an offer to the church,” Wells said. “So I believe this is a ploy by Mr. Brake just to sell papers.”
Gallagher didn’t oppose Wells’ assertion.
“I agree with you 100 percent,” he said.