County delays wool building decision
A proposal to rent the Minden Wool Warehouse to house the Sheriff’s Office may not be the next step while the county figures out how to expand the Judicial & Law Enforcement Building.
Commissioners delayed a decision to rent the building until their May meeting at Stateline.
Commission Chairman Barry Penzel pointed out the county doesn’t have $32 million to expand the building and doesn’t have the extra $5 million it would cost to renovate the wool building for the sheriff’s office.
“I would love to build a building and put people in it and say ‘let’s do our work,’” he said. “In reality, we don’t have the money for just doing the $5 million. We’re playing with fire and we’ve got to put the fire out.”
Commissioner Larry Walsh said he didn’t see making that sort of investment in a building the county doesn’t own.
“Spending millions of dollars on a building we’re never going to own is not palatable to me,” he said. “The long-term solution is to build a complex that can accommodate everyone.”
Commissioner Wes Rice agreed, saying dividing the sheriff’s office from the jail is not economical.
“I would like to look at a long-term fix,” he said. “I prefer to be an owner to being a renter.”
Justice of the Peace Cassandra Jones said the clock is ticking on the option to rent the building, but that she appreciated commissioners’ position.
“It’s good to hear you recognize the needs,” she said. “We also prefer to be an owner to being a renter. We’re already 30,000 feet behind what we need. All we can do is keep coming to you and say we need money.”
Jones said that should the county decide to rent the wool building, it would start by preparing it for the sheriff’s office, except the jail. The bottom floor of the judicial building would be remodeled to accommodate high traffic areas, including East Fork Justice Court and the clerk’s offices.
Project Manager Scott McCullough said work on planning how to expand the center has been ongoing since 2014. A proposal to put a bond on the ballot in 2018 was withdrawn by the elected officials in the building.
Part of the issue is the jail, which was expanded for around $10 million a decade ago. According to space needs studies, it will last into the foreseeable future, while the rest of the building continues to pose security and crowding issues.
Commissioners agreed to revisit the issue at their next Lake Tahoe meeting. In the meantime, County Manager Patrick Cates said commissioners would address their capital improvements program, which includes the building.
“We can have a fuller discussion on potential funding when we consider that,” he said.