Agreement reached on joint civic center |

Agreement reached on joint civic center

Susan Wood

In a historic move for South Lake Tahoe, the city and Lake Tahoe Unified School District on Tuesday unanimously approved a preliminary concept for a civic center and sports complex on district land off Al Tahoe Boulevard.

The venture presented by a Harris & Associates – a Carson City land use consultant the city paid $16,000 to map out the area – could cost up to $25 million for the joint government center and $1.9 million for an outdoor community sports complex with a concessionaire and a renovated running track on school grounds. The latter represents the first phase of the project that could be built in one summer as early as next year.

But much work needs to be done before that. Otherwise, the whole project could take three years to build.

The board actions set the stage for developing a work program that would include a financing plan and timeline. Public hearings and an agreement will need to be scheduled and drafted, respectively.

The agencies may also explore taking an inventory of assets to possibly liquidate in the process. Funding could be split between the state, city and El Dorado County – which will take up the proposal next Tuesday during its Board of Supervisors’ meeting. There was no mention of what those assets might be.

Tahoe’s District 5 Supervisor Norma Santiago has served on a subcommittee to look into the venture with City Councilwoman Kathay Lovell and LTUSD board member Sue Novasel – along with Superintendent of Schools Jim Tarwater and City Manager Dave Jinkens.

“I’m excited about it. The three jurisdictions have the opportunity to work together on a concept that integrates education, recreation and government,” Santiago said Tuesday by phone after the meeting.

Apparently, the arts may have a place, too. One such idea includes building a performing arts center possibly where the former Al Tahoe Elementary School now sits. The area in question covers a 50-acre area over district property.

The option agency representatives are leaning toward at this point includes a 3.5-acre government center, renovated track the community has been fundraising for, transit area, bike lane connections and a parking lot or structure that would accommodate at least 230 parking spaces. The bus barn would stay put.

LTUSD board President Wendy David, who works in the government center that houses county and city law enforcement offices, shared a concern there would be enough parking to handle the spillover of vehicles in jury trials. Sometimes they impact Johnson Boulevard.

Tarwater and the district board were enthusiastic about doling over land for the purpose of having a gathering place in a critical point in town. He also contends the 30-year-old district office off Al Tahoe Boulevard has worn out its life by at least a decade.

Still, former City Councilman Bill Crawford, a retired teacher who’s running for a council seat this November, countered the offices “seem to work.” He strongly urged the entities to proceed cautiously before signing on the bottom line – especially when it comes to dictating who will cover the maintenance of the facilities.

“You better know what you’re signing,” he said.

Crawford also took issue with the city planning for and spending on yet another move when it recently relocated from the “Y” to the Lake Tahoe Airport, although that relocation has been considered temporary. The city budgeted $1.1 million for last spring’s move to escape a high lease at the building it once leased. City Finance Director Christine Vuletich said the job isn’t done yet, so the local government is still counting up receipts.

While the school district is developing its school facilities master plan, the county has been due to move out of its office space off Highway 50 for five years. City officials have talked about a permanent place of its own for 40 years – since its inception.

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