Tuesday, March 18, 2014 — Relocating the supervisors’ chambers has been tabled for now and the priority has moved to developing a capital improvement plan to prioritize the needs and budgeting.
The matter was decided after discussion during a Tuesday, March 11 meeting of the Lassen County Board of Supervisors where Jeff Morrish, of NST Engineering, also presented plans for three proposed boardroom locations.
The supervisors dedicated a portion of its agenda to discuss a capital improvement plan for the second Tuesday of the month.
The board had been looking at building plans and the possibility of relocating to the former courthouse annex on S. Roop Street since January. The supervisors had met in the room from 1960 to 1987 until it relocated to its current location at 707 Nevada St.
Some residents however, including Jim and Jean Hodge, expressed their concern a capital improvement plan should be in place before the project moved forward and it may not be a priority among the community.
The other two options for a boardroom were relocating the auditor’s office and moving the chambers to the vacated space in the upstairs of the annex building or renovating the courtroom in the historic courthouse on South Lassen Street.
According to Morrish, the cheapest option was moving to the downstairs of the annex facility with an estimated cost of $233,000, including a dais, furnishings and multimedia and sound equipment.
Renovating the historic courtroom would be a beneficial option if the supervisors decided to gut the facility and remodel the entire courthouse, according to Morrish.
He also told the board, “There’s a point at which you need to look at your facilities, not only for space and needs of the staff, but also the thing I feel is really going to trigger what you do in your facilities right now is (American with Disabilities Act) compliance as well as energy efficiency of the building.”
For example, he said the county facility at Nevada Street is very inefficient and is costing a lot more than necessary. Consolidation of some of the buildings may be the way to go at this time as well.
Supervisor Bob Pyle said the costs were too much.
“The only way you do one or the other is you do a capital improvement plan and had all that planned out,” he said.
Board Chairman Larry Wosick said it is going to cost money, whatever we do.
“I’m a cheerleader, as well of the plan, and I think in that plan needs to be the courthouse deal, new board chambers … and we can’t just sit here with the current infrastructure until it crumbles down upon us. I support looking at updating a whole new board chambers, but part of a plan, that its prioritized … and if majority of the board feels that’s the first priority, then I will support spending those dollars on that,” he said.
Wosick continued, “We need to have a plan, and we need to have a plan soon because the county’s buildings are old, they’re inefficient.We probably spend way more money than we need to on utilities and we need to get with the program and improve not only the board room, but everything as a whole.”
Supervisor Jim Chapman, who requested the board start looking at relocating said, “We don’t have to do anything. We can just sit right here for another 27 years. this room was inadequate when they moved here 27 years ago. And my recommendation, if we don’t want to spend any money ... that at least we spend a couple dollars and get some new chairs for the audience because these chairs date back to the early 60s and I’m sick and tired of looking at them …”
Chapman said he’s been waiting since 2002 to get into something more accommodating. There is no room for staff and the media and minimal room for the public and the only one who has decent workspace are the supervisors.
“And I don’t think that’s fair. I think that the public, the staff, the media, everybody should be given accommodations,” he said.
Jean Hodge said she had talked to several city councilmembers who said the supervisors could use its chambers.
Pyle said, in all due respect to Hodge, he didn’t think the county needed to share its boardroom with the city.
“With all the empty building and space we have, I really think we can find a place. I’d stay here first myself,” he said.
Supervisor Tom Hammond asked Lassen County Auditor Karen Fouch if she thought the county could afford the project.
Fouch said, “We’re not destitute, but we’re struggling. We’ve been spending more than we’ve been bringing in for a number of years. Next year is going to be the same thing. I don’t see things turning around. Revenues are improving a little bit, but our expenditures are outpacing those revenue increases.”
According to Fouch, the county is going to have a difficult budget year.
“And I think it’s going to come down to making choices. I just don’t see how we can continue our current operations, as in public safety, at the level we currently have unless we start budgeting a little more practically.
“We don’t have $8 million squirreled away, that’s ridiculous,” Fouch said.
Wosick asked her if specific money was available as Chapman had mentioned.
Fouch said it is discretionary and it has been used for improvements such as to the Veterans Memorial Hall.
She said, “There’s been one-time funds. We’ve been using it for a number of years so those funds are dwindling and they’re really exhausted.”
Fouch also said she asked Chapman to identify the money he feels is stashed away.
“I don’t know where he thinks it is. I don’t know where it is,” she said.
The county does have an accumulated capital outlay fund, which receives a share of property tax revenue and it has been appropriated for certain projects such as maintaining the computer infrastructure, telephone systems and making improvements to county buildings. The current balance is $780,000 and the anticipated annual revenue is $230,000.
Wosick said, once there is a plan, there is money to start.
“It’s not accurate to say, we don’t have the money to do anything?” he asked. “There’s $1 million to use …”
“Correct, but we also have $6 million in needs,” Fouch said.