Council OKs city’s move to airport: The $850,000 expense is already placed in the next budget beginning in October | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Council OKs city’s move to airport: The $850,000 expense is already placed in the next budget beginning in October

Susan Wood

Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / The Lake Tahoe Airport will also house city offices and council chambers.

By March, the city could have a new home to call its own – but it will cost the local government about $850,000 up front. And that was the least expensive option.

In what’s deemed a major cost-saving measure, the South Lake Tahoe City Council decided Monday during a special meeting to move its council chambers along with planning, building and community development departments out of the leased building on 1900 Lake Tahoe Blvd. It will move these offices into the Lake Tahoe Airport terminal, a building it currently owns located off Highway 50 at the city limits.

The vote was 4-0, with Councilman John Upton absent.

The council was given three options by staff, with the highest price alternative costing $1.5 million and calling for an extensive tearing down of walls in the terminal. At the outset, the preferred option will require removing asbestos, installing a fire security alarm, upgrading telecommunications systems, hiring a consultant to secure permits, relocating the airport generator and conducting a traffic study, among other duties.

The city is trying to escape the escalating cost of high rent, which would go up another $30,000 annually after the 10-year lease expires in February. The property owner is requiring the city sign another 3-year lease at $150,000.

The city already owns its building on Tata Lane, where most of its administrative offices are located. In its 40-year history, the local government has never had a city hall – a sticking point and action item for this council and others that have come before it.

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A controversial proposal four months ago to move it to Bijou Community Park was canned upon citizen unrest over the idea.

“Whatever the future of the City Council chambers is, it’s not in this building,” Councilman Hal Cole said. “The City Council meetings may not be as comfortable, but this is a first step to being fiscally responsible.”

Cole said it’s been difficult to, as a businessman, see rent money going out the window.

The $850,000 expense is already placed in the next budget starting in October. The budget will come before the council Oct. 18 at 9 a.m. The move will be paid for through Measure Z funds and the state’s reimbursements of vehicle license fees.

The proposed layout will house the council chambers and planning department counter on the right side of the terminal entrance on the second floor. Among the 19 staffers, the city’s directors will get modular offices set up on the other side of the staircase near the runway window on the same floor. The Enterprise Rent-A-Car counter and Chase’s Bar & Grill will remain where they are. The helicopter company will shift to another airport location, and the baggage carousel will be removed.

Acting Public Works Director Bill Williamson said his crew will need the remaining five months on the lease to complete the move, which is seen as a property investment. He added the changes the city will make to the airport terminal should not hinder future plans if commercial service returns. The airport has had no commercial carrier for four years.

The Federal Aviation Administration has given its OK to the plan, airport manager Smokey Rickerd said.

There’s a long-term concept in the works to create a 60,000 square-foot government center that combines all city offices with El Dorado County’s Tahoe units. This would require the building of another structure across the airport parking lot and the county’s approval. The county is still evaluating that plan.

Meanwhile, the city will forge ahead with the temporary move.

“The clock is ticking. Our first step is to be financially prudent,” Mayor Kathay Lovell said.