Cambria residents will get a more central location for services district offices, but the district will pay nearly $1 million to move into the old Cambria library.
Easier access and the prospect of owning property rather than paying rent were enough to convince the board majority to make the purchase.
The district offices will move from current rented offices tucked away on Tamson Drive to the West Village space at 900 Main Street under the purchase agreement approved Thursday, July 27, on a 3-2 vote.
Staff estimates the total cost of the move will be $937,535, including $140,000 to bring the building into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The district will pay $49,887 a year on a $562,500 loan from Municipal Finance Corp. at 3.8 percent interest.
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The remainder of the building’s cost ($235,035) will come from General Fund reserves.
The actual purchase price from San Luis Obispo County is $405,000.
District counsel Tim Carmel said the cost of buying the property will be “a little bit more than what we’re paying in rent currently.”
Board Vice President Greg Sanders joined directors Jim Bahringer and Mike Thompson in approving the purchase, with President Amanda Rice and Director Harry Farmer opposed.
“I was swayed by the location itself, and having a more visible office, I think, is good for this community,” Bahringer said. “Very few government organizations rent rather than buy,” he added. “That investment will increase the value of the property.”
Rice, however, questioned whether the district could move into the new offices within a targeted six-month time frame and questioned the cost of the project, which comes on top of the district committing to millions of dollars in loans on its Sustainable Water Facility.
I was swayed by the location itself, and having a more visible office, I think, is good for this community.
Jim Bahringer, CCSD director, who voted with the majority to approve purchase of the old Cambria library
“Even if we manage to work that $1 million into a rate increase, we’re still way behind,” Rice said, adding that the amount “is definitely enough to build a brand new building on a piece of property we already own.”
Sanders, however, disputed that, saying building a facility from scratch would be more expensive and that modifications needed to make the library suitable as CCSD offices have been taken into account.
“We had a licensed architect look at the building; we had a building inspector thoroughly analyze the building,” Sanders said. “When an opportunity like this presents itself, you really need to go for it, because in the long term, this will benefit the taxpayers and ratepayers of this district.”
According to the board’s agenda packet, the district would own the property free and clear sometime around 2032.
Rice, however, pointed to the short-term costs: “I don’t know how long it’s been since you’ve been to Costco, (but) if I’ve only got 20 bucks, I can’t buy 40 dollars worth of toilet paper. … We can’t take every opportunity because we feel like it.”
The 2,331-square-foot property sits on a lot of 9,888 square feet.
Some board members and members of the public who spoke at the meeting expressed concerns about limited parking. Of the five speakers during public comment, four spoke out against the project and the fifth urged the board to collect more information before making a decision.
The board also considered several other matters in its marathon five-hour session.
Water plant EIR approved
The board voted 4-1, with Farmer opposed, to approve the final Environmental Impact Report on the Sustainable Water Facility.
Tom McGill of Michael Baker International told the board about the potential impact on the habitat of three affected species — the California red-legged frog, tidewater goby and steelhead trout — calling it “less than significant.”
He said monthly monitoring would continue on the area, with the data being compared to baseline observations to ensure that habitat is not adversely affected.
Connie Gannon, executive director of Greenspace, questioned during public comment how baseline data were collected. She quoted concerns raised by Tom Luster of the California Coastal Commission in a letter to the CCSD:
“To accurately identify effects resulting from a project, baseline conditions should be based on pre-project conditions. The (Adaptive Management Plan), however, proposes baseline conditions based in part on data collected as the project was operating. We recommend the proposed AMP be revised to use data that describes preproject conditions, and/or data collected during nonoperation.”
Voting no today doesn’t get us closer to something that’s acceptable and isn’t creating impacts.
Amanda Rice, CCSD board president, on approving the EIR on the Sustainable Water Facility
District engineer Bob Gresens, however, stated that “a very extensive amount of data” had been gleaned from a variety of documents in determining the baseline conditions. Among them, he mentioned a groundwater study that included readings that dated from “the 1980s to approximately 2014.”
Rice, who said she has “been conflicted on this issue for almost as long as this thing has been built,” nonetheless voted in favor of approving the EIR.
“Voting no on this is not an option for me, and here’s why: It doesn’t get us any closer to protecting the habitat. What gets us closer to protecting the habitat is going through the permitting process with agencies that have the ability to enforce violations,” Rice said.
“Voting no today doesn’t get us closer to something that’s acceptable and isn’t creating impacts. It gets us closer to a situation where we do have agencies that are independent of us overseeing what is happening.”
Health care resolution fails
The board voted 5-0 against a resolution that would have called upon the district to “work cooperatively with the Cambria Community Healthcare District to co-locate” that district’s ambulance company to the CCSD fire station on Burton Drive.
Eleven members of the public spoke on the resolution, each one in opposition to it.
Thompson said that there couldn’t be any talk of a permanent co-location because “there’s state legislation that precludes health district personnel from fighting fires.”
When the issue first came up, he said, the CCSD’s offer “was to provide some sort of temporary facility (for ambulance crews) to work out of,” during repairs to the health district’s storm-damaged Main Street ambulance station.
“I don’t think we’re in a position now to discuss expansion of the fire facility,” he said. “I really don’t see that we can go forward on this.”
Other directors agreed and voted against the proposal, which closely mirrored a resolution passed 4-1 by the health district’s board.
Florez contract reduced
Directors unanimously approved an amended contract with Balance Public Relations, reducing the amount to be paid by the district to $77,000 a year, plus out-of-pocket expense, down from more than $100,000.
Former state Sen. Dean Florez of Balance Public Relations has been engaged in efforts on the district’s behalf in Sacramento concerning the Sustainable Water Facility.
Water loss — General Manager Jerry Gruber said the district had a spike in unaccounted-for water to 48.9 percent in June, which he attributed to a huge leak near Santa Rosa Creek behind the Bluebird Inn. The leak has since been bypassed with a temporary pipe over the nearby pedestrian bridge, and Gruber estimated that the figure would be “back in the 10 to 13 percent range” as a result. In an email Monday, Gruber said the district would pay Dechance Construction $35,000 for repairs associated with the leak and Rain for Rent $5,000 for mibilizing, rental and laying pipe across the bridge.
Recognition — The district recognized Dianne Brooke, Stephanie Arehart and Shana McCormick for finding and alerting the district to the Bluebird leak, making them honorary Water Department members. Brooke, the only one of the three present at the meeting, accepted department T-shirts on behalf of herself and the other two residents.
Park project — Gruber reported that groundbreaking had taken place for Phase 1 of the park improvement project at the rodeo grounds on the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve. A new dog park there is the first step in the project. He said a house on the property was being demolished as the board met and that all the eucalyptus stumps had been removed from the site.