County offices may not require public approval
At the November 16 joint meeting of the Mono County Board of Supervisors and Mammoth Lakes Town Council, the two entities agreed to pursue planning for a new joint government office center in Mammoth Lakes. According to Mono County Administrative Officer Leslie Chapman, The Mono County Board of Supervisors may have the authority to approve the massive bond necessary to finance the project without putting it to a public vote.
The Supervisors will debate building new vs. signing a lease extension at the Sierra Center Mall, at the February 21 board meeting.
This week, Chapman told The Sheet her staff has calculated a revised estimate for the total cost of constructing a new, 43,000 square foot County office facility, based on construction cost of $580/ square foot. She said her staff is in the process of consulting financial advisors regarding the cost of financing the project, which County staff estimates will cost $24.9 million. She envisioned a facility built jointly by the Town of Mammoth Lakes and Mono County, with each entity responsible for financing and building its own wing.
Collaborative Design Studios (CDS), the firm Mono County paid roughly $26,000 to conduct a feasibility study for a new government center last year, estimated that renewing the existing lease at the Sierra Center Mall would cost the County $26 million over twenty years. Chapman said that it is reasonable for the Board of Supervisors to vote on whether or not to proceed with a new building, as the funds required to do so would be less than what the County currently expends in rent to occupy The Sierra Center Mall. “We know we [Mono County] can service a debt on a new building in the short run,” said Chapman this week. “It would be just a little more [per month] than what we pay now for rent at the Sierra Center Mall,” said Chapman, referencing the $82,233 per month Mono County currently pays in rent to occupy that space.
By Lunch’s calculations, the total cost to build, finance, and maintain a new building is closer to $50 million over 20 years, almost twice the amount Mono County staff are presenting as the cost of the project to the Board of Supervisors, the body Chapman says is empowered to finance it. At the same February 21 meeting, the Board will hear a proposal for a new lease from the partners at Sierra Center Mall.