Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – The county is chipping away at its huge building maintenance backlog by borrowing $16 million for various projects.
At its Jan. 19 meeting, the Board of Supervisors approved borrowing $5.6 million for an initial round of work. The first phase of borrowing will cover costs associated with reconstruction of the county Juvenile Hall facility, replacing the building that now houses the Public Defender’s Office, a remodeling of the District Attorney’s Office, replacing the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office and upgrading the restaurant at the county’s main airport. Public Works Director Tom Mattson said the total cost of the projects will be about $16 million – which is only a fraction of the county’s $200 million backlog of building maintenance.
But he acknowledged the financial impact. “I know it is a big hit,” he said.
The county previously borrowed money for projects like construction of its animal shelter. Interim County Administrative Officer Cheryl Dillingham said existing debt will be paid off by 2026.
The new round of borrowing will increase the county’s annual debt payments by about $500,000 when debt payments start in 2020, she continued, then rise to about $1 million a year for four years before tapering to the level paid now.
“We believe we can come up with the funding to cover this and we will get a brand new building and get rid of a lot of deferred maintenance also,” Dillingham said.
Of the initial funding request, $2.1 million is for the Juvenile Hall rebuild and $1.4 million is for the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office project.
An additional $1.2 million is for rebuilding the Public Defender’s Office facility, which will allow the county’s Assessor, Auditor/Controller, Treasurer/Tax Collector, and Elections departments to move into it.
That will open space for re-locating the Public Defender’s Office into the county courthouse building and adding new courtrooms there. The associated District Attorney’s Office remodel accounts for $900,000 of the initial funding package.
A remodeling of the main airport’s restaurant is the lowest-cost request at $250,000 but Supervisor Virginia Bass highlighted its importance as a potential revenue source for the county’s cash-strapped Airport Enterprise Fund.
“I really hope that we can move that forward sooner rather than later because as we all know there’s a lot of red that’s hemorrhaging over there,” Bass said.
She was nonplussed when Mattson told her the project will be finished in 2017. “I have an issue with that,” said Bass, adding that it was not the right time to talk further and “we’ll work on that one later.”
Supervisors acknowledged the need for all the projects, with Supervisor Ryan Sundberg saying that he was “shocked” at the condition of the Public Defender’s building when he first toured it in 2010.
Supervisors unanimously approved the first phase of borrowing for the roster of projects.