When the El Dorado County Department of Veteran Affairs office moved into the South Lake Tahoe Senior Center at 3050 Lake Tahoe Blvd. in June, it was nothing less than an invasion in Kenneth Sands' eyes.
"We've been pushed out of 2,000 square feet of space in a 6,000-square foot building. They just walked in and said, 'Here's your stuff.' You'll find our computers and copy machines sitting next to the receptionist," Sands said.
Sands, the president and chairman of the Tahoe Basin Senior Citizens Center, Inc., said that his committee has put approximately $119,000 into the building through various fundraisers since the 1980s, and that the seniors no longer have use of a conference room they used for line dancing and other community events.
El Dorado County owns the building and operates it on what Facilities Manager Russ Fackrell called "pretty much a non-financial agreement." The county leases the property to the city on the grounds that it continues to operate as a senior center. It's a 50 year lease that the county has no plans on terminating, he said.
When Veteran Affairs Interim Director William Schultz requested the move from the previous office on 1360 Johnson Blvd., he did it because he thought the relocation would best serve the town.
"We needed a place to better reach the community. We felt it was a really good fit, and we've only heard positive feedback. Both the other offices - the district attorney and mental health - they needed more room. And I felt like we needed a change of venue," Schultz said.
Sands and TBSCC Vice Chairman R.S. Lynn both said they support Veteran Affairs - "Everyone in our generation is a veteran. There was a draft," Lynn said - they just don't want the office, which is only open on Tuesdays between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., taking up space in the senior center.
Sands also expressed concern over a clause in a new facilities agreement regarding the county's ability to terminate a lease within 60 days notice. It's that clause that has Sands and Lynn hesitant to invest any more money in a building they said they fear could be retaken by the county. Sands had plans for a $280,000 face-lift for the center that would include extensive roof work, covered outdoor walkways and new carpeting, but he's put the blueprints on the back burner for now.
Fackrell said it's simply standard contract language and that the county has no plans to stop using the South Lake Tahoe building as a senior center.
"We wanted to move Veteran Affairs to that building because of the similar nature of what they do. It works well and it's getting the services to those who need it," Fackrell said.