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Legislature Authorizes Increased Bond Authority for Human Services Annex Improvements

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Legislature Authorizes Increased Bond Authority for Human Services Annex Improvements

Tuesday, December 20, 2011
The Legislature, by a vote of 12-3, increased bonding authority for improvements to the new Human Services Annex building. (Legislators Pam Mackesey, Frank Proto, and Kathy Luz Herrera voted no.) The Legislature authorized up to $1.3 million in bonding to support design and construction of renovations to the building at 214 West Martin Luther King/State Street, to reflect added cost since preliminary plans and financial projections were prepared. The improvements will configure the space, first as an office for the County's Office for the Aging (which must vacate its space in the County Courthouse to accommodate court system needs), and through a flexible design will leave open the possibility to accommodate alternate future County uses, such as the Community Justice Center.

The Legislature took a long and careful look at the issue, over close to three hours, hearing a presentation from HOLT Architects and Facilities director Arel LeMaro, and analyzed aspects of the project design and cost estimates, including reductions suggested by the Capital Plan Review Committee. As he did earlier to the Capital Committee, LeMaro noted that the project cannot be completed for the $750,000 contained in initial figures. The Legislature ended up approving bonding at the higher $1.3 million level, rather than the $1,175,000 recommended by the Capital Committee. It was noted the authorization does not commit the County to bonding for that full $1.3 million amount.

Both Legislators Mackesey and Luz Herrera, who opposed the action, expressed their concern that the Legislature bought the building for COFA and now, from their perspective, essentially would be making improvements for the CJC. Mackesey said the Legislature never made that decision. Luz Herrera called the dual use approach unfair to both COFA and the taxpayer. Legislator Proto also recalled that the building was initially purchased for COFA, but said the initial $750,000 figure amounted to a placeholder. While voting in favor of the bond authorization, Legislator Carol Chock stressed that she does not commit to any future action to change the building's use.

County Administrator Joe Mareane noted approval of the bond resolution keeps all of the County's options open, that the Legislature's action does not dictate a certain future outcome, and that any future use, if it is proposed, would need Legislature authorization to occur.