More on costs of County Office Complex plan

inyo_courthouse1.jpgAfter many years of planning and consideration, there is now little public opposition to the County Office Complex in Bishop. The Supervisors recently approved non-binding plans and finances with the news that annual payments for the building will equal around $690,000 which is roughly $330,000 more than the County now pays for Bishop office space. How do officials justify this?

County Administrator Kevin Carunchio said that now Bishop leases go up more than 4% per year and that over the decades the County will actually save as much as $37 million in costs through the new building project including rents, utilities and even personnel over time. But what about the next several years and the $330,000 additional cost if the project goes forward?

Carunchio said that Health and Human Services will take about half of the building and will pay for lease costs with state and federal dollars. He said public safety will occupy another big chunk of the building. He said the County maintains a Criminal Justice Facilities Trust which now holds over $700,000. All told, the Administrator thinks at least 75% of the additional cost is covered.

As he did at budget time, Carunchio admits tough budget times lie ahead. He said long-term, the office building will give the County control over its expenses and eventual ownership of a modern building.

Meanwhile, Carunchio says the current labor contracts that the County anticipates signing will cost County government $1.8 million more next fiscal year. He said employees have gone four years without a cost of living increase. Citizens also know about low wages during the recession since 2008 and wonder how the County will pay for increased salaries.

Carunchio feels confident the County can manage. He has called on a high profile consultant, Frank Benest, who is the former City Manager of Palo Alto, to hold a workshop with the Board and department heads on creative budget solutions. The Administrator said Inyo will “do things to avoid lay-offs.”

11 Responses to More on costs of County Office Complex plan

  1. The Emperor November 22, 2013 at 8:14 am #

    Another comment/question about the lease lease/back arrangement. I recall that this Bishop building project was competitively bid at the front end of these discussions, but that was years ago. Now that the cost has gone up, the design has changed, and some of the details like square footage of the building has changed, why has the competitive bidding process not been opened up again?
    It also could be argued that these kinds of lease/back arrangements are done to avoid having the taxpayers vote on a project. The conventional way would be to put a bond measure on the ballot to fund a multi-million dollar building like this one. At least that way there is some public debate. I would bet many taxpayers in the County aren’t even aware of these plans. And one way or another the taxpayers will be stuck with the bill.

  2. Steve November 22, 2013 at 12:10 am #

    ” Bishop leases go up more than 4% per year.” Who negotiated a lease like this? Have you seen how many vacant space for rent in Bishop? Given there is no industry in the area, the County is the only player in town for office space. As the new building belongs to the County, the County will be responsible for its upkeep adding an additional expense. If the County were to move to the new space the current assessment of those commercial property is going to go down along with other commercial properties that must lower their rents to compete.

    In conclusion, the County will spend more tax dollars and shoot itself in the foot at the same time with lower assessments. The county may claim a projected saving, but how many of you out there have seen government projects come within their budgets.

  3. MajorTom November 21, 2013 at 2:08 pm #

    I think it’s kind of crazy for the county to go on paying rent to various landlords around town who can essentially get whatever rent they want. This is taxpayer money going directly into the pockets of a few entities. The county will be around forever and it makes sense to put taxpayer money into buying a building that the taxpayers will own. Then that rent money can go to needed services. Not to mention the sad state of many of the buildings the county currently rents, with little choice, which negatively impacts both county employees and citizens.

    It is still a good time to build and borrow money, the costs of both are near historic lows. No satisfactory existing buildings are available, particularly with comparable, affordable financing. Not only that, putting the current rented buildings on the rental market, along with their now excellent digital access, will provide good opportunities for businesses that can take advantage of that new opportunity. Call it an opportunity for economic development.

    I say go for it.

    • Mark November 21, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

      Major Tom – for us regular tax paying folks it’s usually always better to build or buy then pay rent. However at the State level there are so many regulations and union influences that it cost the State or Counties four times as much to build anything then us folks who can hire private contractors who then hire illegals at much less then Davis Bacon / prevailing wages.

      It would be cheaper to buy something existing and go with a less expensive remodel of an existing structure.

      But if they’re going to build it I’m going to bid on it and line my pockets with some tax payer money. There is satisfaction in getting a piece of the pie.

      • Desert Tortoise November 21, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

        If the quality of your construction is as poor as that of my home, which I bought new in 2008, is indicative of what private enterprise seems to be happy to throw together, and nothing I have seen in the new housing stock tells me otherwise, buidling to private standards pretty much guarnatees your public building will be in as sad a shape as a certain animal shelter is today.

        If you want something built to last, meaning structural steel framing, plaster on steel lath interior walls, copper plumbing, electrical that is in actual steel conduit with steel junction boxes instead of the inexpensive plastic junk used to build my house then you have to pay some money.

    • lifetime local November 21, 2013 at 6:20 pm #


      I don’t know about you, but I don’t see a lot businesses standing in line to move into the offices that would be vacated when the county moves into a new expensive building. Then that leaves a lot of landlords with empty buildings, a drop in their personal income, and eventually being asked to pay higher taxes to help the county pay for the new building when the funds run out. Sounds like a losing situation for a lot of people.

  4. Desert Tortoise November 21, 2013 at 8:06 am #

    This does not seem like a wise move by the county. There are too many unanswered questions, to much risk the county will not have the funds to pay the full cost of the new building for this plan to move forward at this time. Unless all of the funding is known and available going forward now basically guarantees that in a few years the county will come crying they are running out of money to build their new monument to the BOS egos (which is all this really is).

  5. Jeff Brown November 21, 2013 at 6:10 am #

    Govt. Gone Wild, as for all the rest of the American People.. “Let Them Eat Cake” 🙂

  6. The Emperor November 20, 2013 at 10:04 pm #

    Why would Inyo County employees be getting a cost of living increase when the County is is talking lay offs? That doesn’t make any sense at all. There are certainly many folks in the Eastern Sierra who would be happy with a living wage, benefits and job security like Inyo County employees enjoy now….even without that COLA. Why wasn’t the truth about the County budget shouted from the roof tops before the vote by the employees to increase their wages? Many of those employees probably would not have voted for that increase if they thought the person in the next cubicle might not have a job because of it. An increase of 1.8 million dollars in uncertain times sounds like a disaster in the making.
    Seems like financing a big new building in Bishop and increasing wages for employees when the forecast income from Coso Geothermal looks to decrease over time is beyond foolish. It just doesn’t add up. Let’s hope that the County isn’t paying your tax dollars for that “consultant” to travel over from Palo Alto for a “workshop with the board”. Math is simple. You don’t need a consultant to figure this out. Look for the County to come up with “solutions” like eliminating some of your elected officials, consolidating positions and creating an even more top heavy, highly paid department head layer. I wonder what services will be cut, what tax increases will be proposed, what “partnering” arrangements will be considered to get the County out of its fiscal mess as a result of the big box building and the increased wages.
    Is State and Federal funding for HHS guaranteed over the 25 years or so it takes to “pay off” this lease purchase of the new Bishop building? Inyo County citizens had better start asking some questions before it is too late.

  7. lifetime local November 20, 2013 at 10:04 pm #

    Are you kidding me???? In a county where we have to ask for community donations to build a decent animal shelter that won’t catch fire or flood annually, we’re supposed to believe that somehow magically we’ll find the additional $330,000 for a new county office building ?
    And I know that this will not be a popular statement, but as to the county employees not receiving a cost of living increase, I can’t feel too much sympathy. I understand that prices go up and covering all family expenses can be difficult, but they are still receiving paid holidays, paid vacation time, and insurance benefits.
    It saddens me to think that with so many prominent empty buildings that should be utilized, the county is looking into building a new structure in an obscure location. It makes as much sense as putting a community college out in the sage brush instead of in town where students could walk to class and frequent nearby restaurants for lunch if needed. Our town is rapidly becoming a graveyard of empty buildings, and will soon have many more if the county vacates all the current offices they utilize.

    • Mark November 21, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

      Everyone in my office including myself took a cut in pay when the economy took a down turn. It hasn’t recovered yet.

      I left the boots on the ground workers pay alone. Without them I can’t do anything.

      As to the county employees not receiving a cost of living increase, they’ll get no sympathy from me either. I recommend they just keep their eyes on the prize…. their pensions.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.