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Two possible locations for county complex proposed

Sheila Gardner

Douglas County’s future – tethered so securely to its past – will be on the table Thursday as commissioners look at least two historic sites as possible locations for the new county complex.

The board has set aside an hour to discuss where county offices may be located in the coming years. Commissioners have heard plans to renovate and expand the historic Minden courthouse or purchase the Bently Nevada Corp. property in the old Minden Creamery.

County Manager Dan Holler said Monday that Steven Winters, who restored and owns the Minden Inn where many county offices are located, also has an offer which would incorporate the entire block of Esmeralda between Third and Fourth streets.

“If the board is interested, they’ll be looking at a plan for the entire block,” Holler said. “So far, the plan is not that detailed.”

Holler said if the price tag exceeds the $6 million to $7 million range of the other two projects, “frankly, that doesn’t work for us.”

Holler said he didn’t expect the board to make a final choice Thursday because Commission Chairman Jacques Etchegoyhen will be absent and commissioners want to make a “full board” decision.

“We’ll ask the board if they want to look at any other alternatives,” Holler said. “If they say no, we’ll decide on the other factors.”

The county manager said commissioners had not received much public input since a hearing Aug. 12 on the site selection for the county complex.

Renovation of the old courthouse would result in tearing down or relocating two structures: the Coventry Cross Episcopal Church and an old house which is now the dentist office of Dr. David Lund.

The Bently site involves the old Minden Creamery which the manufacturing firm converted into offices. Plans call for total or partial demolition of the brick building.

“There hasn’t been much public concern one way or another,” Holler said. “If this were a voter approved bond issue, more people probably would show up.”

He said staff did not have a recommendation of one site over the other.

“It’s a policy issue of how much the board wants to deal with and when,” Holler said. “Both sides meet the short-term needs. The Bently site probably meets the long-term needs easier and sooner. The expanded courthouse can meet the long-term needs, but it will cost more and take longer. Either site would meet the county’s needs for 10 years. It’s a question now of what level of planning do you want to do now vs. the future.”

Holler said if the board selected the Bently site over the old courthouse expansion, more could be done quicker and cheaper in centralizing county departments including road and facility maintenance, records management and warehousing. If the Bently site receives a clean environmental assessment, the project includes 6.2 acres for expansion.

Whether the courthouse is used for the county office complex, the historic structure would still be a public facility, Holler said.

“If we build somewhere else, what is the new public use of the old courthouse?” Holler asked.

He said the courthouse could provide housing for several offices located throughout the county, including Parks and Recreation, extension services, even the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitors’ Authority which is partially funded through taxpayer dollars.

Other public tenants could be the Department of Motor Vehicles, Nevada Highway Patrol, Town of Minden or the Carson Valley Water Authority, Holler said.

Discussion on the county complex begins at 4 p.m. Thursday in commission chambers in the old courthouse.

The board also will hold a meeting on the Minden-Tahoe Airport which is to get under way at 5 p.m. That item is scheduled for three hours and includes discussion of the airport economic development plan, funding, fees, role of the Airport Advisory Committee and minimum standards for development.