Smaller building, greater costs was the essential message brought to the Inyo County Board of Supervisors at their Tuesday board meeting to review the County Offices Consolidation building in Bishop off of Wye Road, just south of Eastern Sierra Motors. In a unanimous vote, the Board approved the final, non-binding building concept, paving the way for future binding contracts.
How much more will the proposed building cost?
The bad news was at least $700,000, and only if it is built now. The county’s project consultant, Allan Kotin, said, “I advise my clients to ‘act now.’ Sooner is always better as interest rates and building costs most likely will only continue to rise.” The interest rate estimated 19 months ago was 1% less than current rates and is the “chief villain” in the cost increase according to Kotin.
The good news: Joseph Enterprises and its investors are willing and confident that they can find $375,000 in savings, significantly reducing the amount of the increase. The county will be responsible to pay the difference.
The bad news: The lease-purchase will raise the original amount from $600,000 per year to $690,000. The County currently pays $357,000 in yearly rent for seven county office locations in Bishop. The additional costs and changes will possibly bring that cost to as much as $690,000 a year, raising the total cost of the project from $10.6 million to $10.9 million.
The good news: Kotin indicates that the county will “break even” in around 7 years.
According to Deputy Public Works Director Jim Tatum, the new building will be approximately 42,000 square feet, have 286 parking spaces, and includes 14 conference rooms. The building will be much more user-friendly with reception areas, coffee areas, and simply better working conditions for county employees working out of the new building.
Some costs have not yet been factored in, such as the cost of moving the current offices into the new building and the cost for any new furniture that might be needed. The building’s open-design interior will mitigate costs and according to Tatum, “Health and Human Services Director Jean Turner has said she is not a big fan of the cubicle concept, but would rather make separations with the furniture.”
Taken off the table for consideration in the agreement was the land swap between Joseph Enterprises and the county as a part of the payment, which Supervisor Rick Pucci expressed disappointment in the removal of the land swap saying that he would prefer that the county not hold on to property that brings in no tax money and is better released into private hands. He is also concerned about the buildings currently in use by the county becoming vacant.
Supervisor Matt Kingsley was “conflicted,” noting that the county has been talking about the need for a building for 20 years and it has merit or it would not keep coming up. He went on to say, “I am somewhat disappointed that the issue keeps being kicked down the road. I am in favor of dealing with issues that either are addressed or else, let’s stop talking about it.” He added he supported providing better, efficient working space whether in Bishop or Independence for county employees. He was also disappointed in the changes that were made with the land swap, which has been discussed since 2011 and was suddenly removed seemingly just in the last week, and that the costs are significantly higher.
Supervisor Mark Tillemans felt that “there is risk, but the alternative is riskier,” while Supervisor Jeff Griffiths said that he felt “the “stars are aligned and the time is right.” Supervisor Linda Arcularius agreed that, “The time is right to do this.”
Despite some of the reservations, the vote was on a non-binding agreement to move forward on to the next phase, which is to decide exactly what the building and financing costs will be. Based on the increase already over the past 19 months, taxpayers should not be surprised if the cost estimates continue going up until a final, formal agreement is inked.