Inyo County officials and the 2011-12 Grand Jury agree that the county should build a new consolidated office in the Bishop area. However, county officials say that conditions aren’t as bad as the Grand Jury claimed in a report earlier this year.
In its 2011-12 report, the Grand Jury recommended in July that local officials continue to work with a local contractor to build a consolidated office, citing poor working conditions, high utility and lease costs and a lack of handicapped accessibility.
While agreeing that current office space is inadequate, the county’s response to the Grand Jury says local offices are safe for employees and the public.
County Administrative Officer Kevin Carunchio has said that conditions in county offices in Bishop are not ideal, and the county has a unique opportunity to study the feasibility of building a new office facility at very little expense to the county, as a local contractor has agreed to fund the early stages of the project without requiring a commitment from the county.
To become better acquainted with the proposal, members of the Grand Jury met with county leaders and department heads in the spring to tour county offices in Bishop and look into conditions at the different buildings.
“The county is in dire need of consolidated office space, as witnessed by members of the Grand Jury during a tour of existing offices in Bishop,” the Grand Jury says in its report. “Existing offices are cramped and overcrowded with staff ‘making do’ with limited parking, no handicap access, no privacy for patients/health care providers, no storage, continuity and lack of communications between departments. There are no fire systems and/or alarms, lack of safety, some offices have limited rooms for private interviews between clients and staff, or there are no interview rooms for privacy at all.”
In its response to the Grand Jury, the county said it partially disagreed with that finding. “The board agrees with the Grand Jury’s finding that county office space in Bishop needs to be improved to provide for more efficient and cost effective service delivery to county residents and businesses,” the response states. “However, the board emphasizes that county policies require and ensure that disabled people receive the same services as those who are not, even though some of our buildings may be less than perfect particularly with regard to current ADA standards. Similarly, county policies are enforced to ensure worker and public safety within the physical constraints of the office space available.”
The Grand Jury said it found that the County Services Building, the only county-owned facility, “is very old and hard to maintain, and the utilities are very high. The Health Department sees some of their cases out in the parking lot because of non-compliance with ADA requirements. There is limited access to the Veteran’s Service Office, and it is not handicapped accessible.”
Again, the county said it partially disagrees with the finding.
“The board agrees with the Grand Jury’s finding that the County Services Building in Bishop has high utility and maintenance costs and needs to be improved to provide for more efficient and cost-effective service delivery to county residents and businesses,” the response states. “However, the board again emphasizes that county policies require and ensure that disabled people receive the same services as those who are not, even though some of our buildings may be less than perfect, particularly with regard to current ADA standards.”
The Grand Jury also said that all existing county offices have safety concerns, limited space and lack private interview space. “The crime scene technician does most of the work out in the parking area, and there is no storage for files anywhere,” the Grand Jury said.
Again, the county said it “partially disagrees” with the finding. The response states the Board of Supervisors agrees with the finding that county office space in Bishop needs to be improved to provide more efficient and cost-effective services.
“However,” the response states, “the board emphasizes that county policies require and ensure that to ensure worker and public safety within the physical constraints of the office space available. During its tour of the Sheriff’s Bishop Sub-Station, the board heard that the Crime Scene Technician has, at times in the past, worked outdoors, but did not hear that this was routine or happens most of the time.”
The final Grand Jury finding is that the county is spending too much money to heat and cool its Bishop buildings.
“Utilities are high,” the Grand Jury Report states. “The county spends a lot of money on maintenance and upkeep. In one of the buildings, the county is responsible for everything, including property taxes. They have spent thousands on tenant improvements. Money is wasted on leased space, the tenant improvements and high utility costs.”
The county said it wholly agreed with that finding.
In conclusion, the Grand Jury said the county “needs to co-locate, to share liked resources, have flexibility, continuity and communication between departments.”
The response said the Grand Jury’s recommendation has been implemented.
“Towards this end, the county is presently in an exclusive negotiating agreement to evaluate the development of a consolidated office building,” the response states.
The Board of Supervisors has entered into an exclusive negotiating agreement with Joseph Enterprises, which will assess the county’s needs and come up with a draft site plan for a new office space.
A term sheet that was developed with the exclusive negotiating agreement proposes that the county enter into a 20-year lease for a new 42,000 square foot building. The county would pay $600,000 a year in rent and be able to purchase the building for $1.
Additionally, the county would pay $2 million as an initial lease payment, and then three payments of $250,0000 (one payment every five years).
The county would also exchange property it owns in the Bishop area for the building site, which would add to the overall amount of private property available for private development in the Bishop area.