Montgomery County Commissioners have taken the first step toward transferring the deed to the Ben Hur Life Insurance building to new owners.

On Monday, Commissioners Phil Bane, Jim Fulwider and Terry Hockersmith voted for a confirmatory resolution to transfer the property to Vandalia Heritage Foundation, the group that intends to turn it into a restaurant and hotel with green space on the roof.

"This is the first step in the process," attorney Dan Taylor told the board.

The next step is to have a redemption period during which the present owner, Heritage Restoration and Development, can pay the $192,491 due the county for back taxes and costs associated with a tax sale for the property.

It may be Vandalia won't have to wait for the redemption period to pass, which could be 90 days. A spokesperson for the current owner said that group wants to work with Vandalia and the county and would waive the redemption period.

No taxes have been paid in seven years, Taylor said..

After the redemption time has passed, if the owner hasn't paid the full amount owed the county, the county will apply to the court for permission to transfer title to Vandalia, Taylor said.

If the property is transferred to Vandalia, the county will be protected against more years of watching the building decay by the resolution passed Monday which would require Vandalia to post a $10,000 bond if the exterior of the building is not made safe for pedestrians. If Vandalia would not do the work, the county would step in and do the work in exchange for the $10,000 bond.

Vandalia will have two years to complete the work on the exterior and see the building complies with all city codes. Vandalia will also have to keep all the real estate taxes and assessments or the property will revert back to the county.

If the current owner redeems the property, the city will enforce codes "quite aggressively," said Mayor Todd Barton, who was present at the meeting.

Fulwider agreed.

"Enough's enough," he said. "That is too nice a building to see it fall down."

Vandalia can apply for tax credits at any time, Barton said.

"It won't happen overnight, but this will start the process and get things moving," Barton said.