Baker County wants to buy an office building in Baker City and move the county’s Health Department into the structure.

Commissioners on Wednesday morning ap- proved making an offer of $500,000 for the building at 2200 Fourth St. New Directions Northwest owns the building, constructed in 1970, and offers several services there, including substance abuse and mental health programs.

New Directions is moving all its operations into a new building on 13th Street near the Baker County Sheriff’s Office and the Powder River Correctional Facility.

The 5,000-square-foot building has a real market value of $515,000, according to the Baker County Assessor’s Office.

The offer commission- ers approved Wednesday call for a $150,000 down payment and paying the balance over 10 years at 3% interest.

“This year is an opportune time for Baker County to do it,” Commissioner Mark Bennett said of the proposed purchase.

One reason, Bennett said, is that the county received money through the federal CARES act, which Congress approved in late March to assist with COVID-19-related issues.

Bennett said the Health Department’s current location, in a leased 3,200-square-foot building on Pocahontas Road near Saint Alphonsus Hospital, isn’t large enough to accommodate the staff.

“New Directions was willing to help the Health Department out (by selling the building at a reasonable price), and I think it’s going to be a good thing for Baker County,” Commissioner Bruce Nichols said.

The larger space would allow the county to hire an additional registered nurse, Bennett said.

In other business Wednesday, commissioners approved a new, 2-year labor contract with Local 503 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents 37 county employees, not including those in the sheriff’s office and emergency dispatch center, elected officials and supervisors.

The contract is similar to the previous 3-year pact, which expired June 30.

The new contract includes 2% annual pay raises for employees. Employees who use their personal vehicles for work will receive 35 cents per mile, up from 30 cents.

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