Posted on 08 July 2011.
Mono Supes opt to sell Mental Health Department property
Selling a house in a recessed economy is problematic at best. In troubled times, however, Mono’s Board of Supervisors aren’t turning a blind eye to any way to save money or cut loose property the County can do without. That even goes for noble programs, such as the Davison halfway house.
At its Board meeting Tuesday, Supervisors fielded options for the sale of the house located at 71 Davison Street in Mammoth, which had been used by Mental Health services for some of its clients either battling or on the recovering side of substance abuse.
Mental Health originally acquired the Davison property in 1997, at first using the house as a state-licensed alcohol and drug rehab facility. In 2005, it changed to a support and transitional living house. The cavernous building currently has 2 tenants, and has only had 5-6 in last year or so. (At most, only 8 tenants have ever lived there at one time.)
Cuts in both in the Mental Health and Alcohol/Drug programs have pared staff down to just two hours a day during the week. Weekends, any residents are on their own. State funding sources have either been eliminated or have been diverted and are likely to remain so, according to County Director of Mental Health Services Ann Gimpel. The house costs a minimum of $60,000 annually to operate, and that’s just sitting empty with no one in it. At best, it pulls in $24,000/year in rent from the residents, leaving a minimum $36,000 gap that has never been closed. “We lost money when it was a residential alcohol-drug treatment house, and we lost money when it was a sober living house,” she noted.
The building needs some upgrades, and may require $200,000 in plumbing and electrical upgrades. “That said, compared with some empty housing, and the challenging environment that faces any given building in town, Davison is really in pretty good shape,” noted Gimpel.
Mental Health has weathered several budget storms, but Gimpel is wary of the state’s situation going forward. “So far, this has been the best of the last three years of state budgets,” Gimpel said, “but there’s $200 million in ‘unidentified cuts to Health and Human Services’ out there and $4 billion in assumed revenue that may or may not come through.”
During the Board’s May 10 meeting, Gimpel won approval to keep going ahead with the sale. According to County Counsel Marshall Rudolph, the Board has three options. The property can be sold at auction to the highest bidder, with the caveat that once the sale’s done, there’s no changing of minds or rejecting bids.
Another route calls for sealed bids, based on a minimum bid. After all the bids are opened, oral bids can be called for, but those have to be at least 5% higher than the highest sealed bid. The plus here is that the Board can choose to reject any and all bids and even take the sale of the house off the market, if it so chooses. Any sale would be subject to Board acceptance.
Third is the “surplus” option, under which the Board can issue a 60-day notice of intent to sell it to government and housing agencies [i.e. Mammoth Lakes Housing], perhaps as low- or middle-income housing.
Mono County owns the 8,000 square foot house (for which it initially paid $275,000) free and clear,. Money recovered from any sale would be split between Mental Health (86%) and General Fund (14%) to repay the funds used in the initial purchase.
The building has no appraised value at the moment, but in any case a ballpark figure from the Assessor’s office and a qualified independent appraiser would be necessary. Gimpel cautioned that it’s probably a better time to buy property than it is to sell, but indicated that the County might be able to strike a deal if it’s willing to be flexible and prices the house to sell.
“It’s part of the change that’s happening, one more casualty in a series of government cutbacks,” Gimpel assessed. “I’m just being proactive instead of reactive. I didn’t see the point of waiting until [the County is] broke to get rid of it. And it’s used so little, it’s hard to justify keeping it.”
No one from the public attended the meeting to advocate keeping the house, and the Board opted to try the surplus approach first before putting it on the open market.
Gimpel said she has budgeted for maintenance and standard expenses in the 2011-2012 budget, but that money can be reallocated if a sale happens during the year.