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Minden Inn back on table

by Sheila Gardner

Slower than anticipated growth in the number of county employees and a quickly approaching deadline have prompted commissioners to reconsider purchasing the Minden Inn if the price is right.

Douglas County manager Dan Holler will recommend to commissioners Thursday that the county buy the historic Minden Inn rather than continue to lease the 81-year-old building while officials wrestle with where to put county offices in the future.

Staff is recommending that the board negotiate a purchase package for the Minden Inn and prepare financing for board review.

In addition, the Town of Minden, Bently Nevada Corp. officials and other property owners should be invited to participate in the planning process for the future location of the county facility.

“There’s no sense in leasing the building for five years,” Holler said. “We’d be out $1.4 million and own nothing. Buying the building would take some pressure off. For the next three to five years between the Minden Inn and the courthouse, we’re fine. Some areas might get a little ‘bulgy.'”

County commissioners have spent more than two years searching for a new site for county offices. The choices have been narrowed down to renovating the old courthouse or purchasing property from the Bently Nevada Corp. on Highway 395 and Sixth Street, across from the county’s Judicial and Law Enforcement Center.

While the county appeared to favor the Bently site, critics of the plan encouraged the board to slow down. Holler said Tuesday the recommendation is not a result of opposition to the proposal.

“It’s a timing problem,” Holler said. “We have to go to court to determine if we have a five-year option on the Minden lease. If we don’t have the option, we’d have to have a place to move in August.”

The county, which moved into the Minden Inn in 1993, has a 10-year lease with the owner with a five-year out option. The annual lease payment is $265,836 with property taxes of approximately $11,330, plus maintenance on the facility.

Holler said he believes there is adequate office space in Minden for a move, but said two county office relocations in a short period would not be prudent.

“The Bently option is a two-plus-year project and we would still be paying rent,” Holler said.

“We’ve been working on this for two years, and I don’t think we’ve gone too fast. Regardless of the final choice, there won’t be 100 percent consensus,” Holler said. “This will allow us more time for overall planning, which is a good thing.”

Another reason for the recommendation is that county staff has not grown at projected rates and existing space meets the county’s needs, Holler said.

Holler will advise commissioners to rescind a previous action to prepare a memo of understanding between the county and Bently Nevada.

“If we are to stay in the Minden Inn, it is staff’s recommendation to pursue the purchase of the facility,” Holler said in the report to be discussed at Thursday’s meeting. “This would allow us time to plan, while providing for an investment in an asset, and meets the county’s short-term needs.”

The county has asked for an updated appraisal of the Minden Inn. A 1996 appraisal placed value of the inn at $2.75 million.

“At this cost, a 10-year bond issue would require annual debt service payments estimated at $362,000,” Holler said. “I have had a preliminary discussion with representatives of the Minden Inn, and they are willing to consider selling the building to the county. We will need to negotiate the details.”

The county was unable to consider the inn’s original selling price of $3.1 million because it is illegal for a public entity to make a purchase at higher than appraised value.

The Record-Courier E-mail: rc@tahoe.com

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