County leaders got in another heated discussion regarding the controversial proposal to construct a new consolidated office facility in Bishop.
Inyo County Administrative Officer Kevin Carunchio asked the Board of Supervisors Tuesday to extend an exclusive negotiating agreement contract with Joseph Enterprises to allow county staff more time to review designs for the building.
As part of the non-binding exclusive negotiating agreement, Joseph Enterprises has been meeting with county department heads to evaluate space needs for the various county offices.
Based on those meetings, an architect drew up preliminary design plans that are currently under review by county staff.
In the original agreement, this phase of the fact-finding efforts associated with the building was supposed to be completed by June 30.
‚ÄúSpace planning is taking place, but it‚Äôs taking longer than expected,‚ÄĚ Carunchio said.
The board approved an extension of phase 1 through Nov. 30 by a 4-1 vote, with Fifth District Supervisor Richard Cervantes voting against the extension, saying that he does not approve of the project at all.
During the discussion Cervantes, who has been adamantly opposed to any consideration of the facility, said the funding proposal for the office building ‚Äúis not in keeping with normal Public Works financing.‚ÄĚ He also said that he wanted to avoid any ‚Äúhint of impropriety‚ÄĚ that could be gleaned ‚Äúfrom a local businessman financing a county building.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúI take exception to you using words like (impropriety),‚ÄĚ First District Supervisor Linda Arcularius said. ‚ÄúThis has been a totally public process, it has been appropriate and legal and I take exception to you impugning your fellow board members.‚ÄĚ
Fourth District Super-visor and Board Chair Marty Fortney pointed out that before the county selected a partner to work with on the project, it issued a Request for Proposals, ultimately moving forward with the most financially sound respondent.
Arcularius said she could not let the record stand with a supervisor questioning the integrity of a local businessman.
The contractor, Joseph Enterprises, ‚Äúis only trying to serve their community,‚ÄĚ Arcularius said. ‚ÄúDon‚Äôt impugn them.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúI‚Äôm proud that a local business was successful with this exclusive negotiating contract,‚ÄĚ Fortney said. ‚ÄúThis is a local, respected businessman and family and to blast the board every time we discuss this is out of line.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúI have reservations, and I express them, that‚Äôs what the people have charged me to do,‚ÄĚ Cervantes said.
Second District Supervisor Susan Cash told Cervantes that Carunchio was available right then to answer any questions and respond to any concerns Cervantes had about the project.
In addition to the uncertainty about current economic conditions, Cervantes said on a local level, the county is putting ‚Äúinordinate amounts of time into this project. As staff puts time into it, it‚Äôs going to be a lot of money. It‚Äôs not like this is not costing the taxpayers money.‚ÄĚ
Arcularius said it is the job of the Board of Supervisors to decide how county employees and department heads will spend their time by selecting projects for them to work on.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs part of their duties anyway,‚ÄĚ Arcularius said. ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt want the perception that we‚Äôre asking them to do something special for this. We‚Äôre not.‚ÄĚ
Under the agreement, Joseph Enterprises is footing the bill for the conceptual designs. The county can back out at any time if county leaders are unsatisfied with the way the project is going, or if the building ends up being too expensive.
Once the space planning phase of the contract is executed, Inyo and Joseph Enterprises will begin considering legal documents associated with finalizing the proposed project. That will be the last opportunity for the county to back out of the plan without any financial consequences.
As part of the design phase, Carunchio said a series of community meetings will be held to gather information from residents before the Board of Supervisors decides whether to move forward with the legal documents.