Deadline looming for City Hall move
Time is running out for the city as it grapples with finding a home for City Hall. In the interim, the temporary spot appears to be the Lake Tahoe Airport for some of the departments.
The lease on the Council Chambers building, located at 1900 Lake Tahoe Blvd., expires in February, with the landlord raising the rent. The city shells out about $120,000 annually to house the council chambers, along with the Planning, Building and Community Development departments.
There’s no estimate of cost on moving the 19 staffers and equipment, but anything could be better than the cost of rent, according to City Manager Dave Jinkens. The city owns the airport terminal, where the departments would be housed. Redevelopment and Housing offices are already located on the bottom floor of the terminal, and Jinkens expects the upper floor to be used.
“We’ve got to get out of this building,” Jinkens said Wednesday of the continual drain on the budget.
Talk of having a city hall has circulated for 40 years. Various locations have been debated, including a controversial one to once place it in Bijou Community Park. In addition, city and county officials are not leaning toward using the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce offices on Lake Tahoe Boulevard – another building it owns.
The City Council approved the concept for an ambitious government center complex at the airport that would combine all or most city departments, El Dorado County units in Tahoe and private enterprise. As part of the concept, a building is planned in the parking lot with a bridge connecting that structure with the terminal.
The city and county are trying to form a partnership to go forward with the plan, but it seems both are awaiting each other’s intentions. Moreover, a new county supervisor to be elected Nov. 8 may steer the process.
The city will hire an architect when the county signs the partnership agreement. The county wants to study the matter more. Keith Leech, head of County General Services, said the board may enter into the agreement when the board hears a presentation by the city.
“This has got to be folded into the county’s needs, and we’ve got a lot of needs,” he said.
Tahoe’s county 5th District supervisor, Dave Solaro, retired about a month ago. Solaro’s assistant, Judi Harkins, has been filling in.
“We know the city is under a crunch. It would be hard to do it alone,” she said.
Harkins wonders how the airport building would accommodate so many county departments – Assessor, Recorder-clerk, District Attorney, Probation, Sheriff, Environmental Management, Health, Social Services and Mental Health.
“(The latter two) departments take up an enormous amount of space, and Health comes with a clinic. How would we deal with that? It may require too much of us,” she asked. “If we’re moving, who would we move and how would it function?”
The 60,000-square-foot government center complex proposal was spun out of a design forum outlined by Design Workshop. The remodel and construction – estimated in millions of dollars – would take at least three years to complete, the projected time of the temporary move.
In any case, the airport would need to be somewhat revamped for the temporary move because the terminal was built in the 1960s. The Federal Aviation Administration has given its OK for the city to proceed, if airport operations are not interfered with. The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency would need to provide permits for such a venture.
“We don’t know if the county is in or the county is out, but we have to move forward,” Mayor Kathay Lovell said. “We need to make an interim move and plan for the long term. Otherwise, we’ll be in a perpetual state of renting.”