By Deb Murphy
After what some Inyo Supervisors thought might have been a 25-year effort, the Board unanimously approved the lease agreement on a 42,000 square foot consolidated Inyo County office building at the Wye, just north of Bishop.
With no payment from the County to the developer, Wolverine/Inyo LLC, until the building is move-in ready, Inyo CAO Clint Quilter explained the developer has an incentive to finish the project in 23 months.
Last June, Consultant Allan D. Kotin presented two financing scenarios: a $2 million payment at the start with $50,000 monthly rent, plus lump payments of $250,000 in years five, ten and 15. The alternative, which Kotin said would put the County ahead by day one, called for a $7.8 million down. The final lease agreement starts with the $7.8 million down, $39,000 monthly rent and the three quarter-million payments in five year increments.
At the end of 20 years, the County would own the building.
According to Quilter, the lease costs were less than current rents in Bishop and the County would break even in eight years. Funding, a large portion having been identified and accrued over the last five years, comes from one-time funds not appropriate for on-going expenses.
County departments with staff currently working out of seven different rentals in Bishop all got together with Quilter to figure out their respective space needs. One significant plus, not tenable with the current multiple office situation, is the inclusion of the Area Resource Center to serve Probation and specific Health and Human Services programs.
The only real issues in the Supervisors’ discussion were maintaining services in Independence and concern over the office spaces being vacated in Bishop.
Supervisor Matt Kingsley pointed that it was easier for some of his Fifth District constituents to get to Pahrump than Bishop. “We need to make sure County services will still be available in Independence,” he said.
Quilter went over the building details at Monday evening’s Bishop City Council meeting where the prospect of more empty space loomed large. Council member Chris Costello recommended adding strategies for those vacated spaces to a future agenda. The City is currently in the process of dealing with zoning changes, including mixed uses, for the downtown corridor. Both Councilmembers and Supervisor Jeff Griffiths raised the possibility of converting some of the vacated office spaces into housing units.
Councilmember Karen Schwartz asked Quilter about using the vacant Kmart. He explained the County had discussed that possibility as well as a move to the Cottonwood Plaza. “Cottonwood only has 22,000 square feet available,” he said. “Kmart has 57,000 square feet and the rent would be $25,000 a month. But it would cost $8.4 million to turn the facility into office space.” Neither entity was interested in selling.
“The County’s policy has always been to own rather than rent,” Kingsley said.