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Supervisors consider downtown courthouse location

Joshua Sebold
Staff Writer
1/5/2011

The Plumas County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to sign a letter of interest, telling the state it would consider selling Dame Shirley Plaza and the building across the street, which houses the building and planning departments, at a Tuesday, Dec. 21, meeting.

County Administrative Officer Jack Ingstad told supervisors there would be no commitment on the part of Plumas by signing the letter, it was just letting the state Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) know the county wasn’t completely opposed to the idea.

This will allow the AOC’s local broker, Randy Barlow of Coldwell Banker Pioneer Realty, to do appraisals of the properties and attempt to negotiate with the county.

Indian Valley Supervisor Robert Meacher asked if the state was looking at both properties for use in one courthouse plan or was considering them as two separate options.

Ingstad said the conversation he had with Barlow was short and didn’t get to that level of detail.

Graeagle Supervisor Ole Olsen commented that he wanted the state to consider the armory building as well.

It was fitting that in his final meeting the outgoing supervisor had one last opportunity to argue that the courthouse be located there, as he has backed that proposal for years. At this point, it seems unlikely the AOC is still considering that option.

Quincy Supervisor Lori Simpson told the rest of the board she had a conflict of interest because her personal property was considered by the AOC for purchase.

BOS Chairwoman Sherrie Thrall commented on the idea of Dame Shirley possibly being selected and sold by the county.

“Coming into town today, as I did from the Chester direction, from the moment you start looking downtown at the courthouse you’re looking at a viewshed, in terms of CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) if nothing else, that is really impressive.

“I think one of the biggest concerns I would have ultimately would be if a building were built right next door that was ultramodern looking or something that detracted from the wonderful historic appearance as you’re coming into town. That would be a real shame because that’s really something to just be directly at the courthouse like it is.

“The other concern I would have would be Main Street being a major artery for people to travel towards Bucks Lake direction, Meadow Valley, especially the hospital access, so there’s a lot of issues that would be involved with those.”

Thrall asked who would pay for the county’s appraisals.

Ingstad said the county would pay for its own and Barlow would negotiate with Plumas based on the appraisals from both sides.

Thrall asked if any other properties were discussed, like the armory.

Simpson said she knew the first choice from the AOC’s perspective was Dame Shirley, with the second choice being a field behind the Chevron station in Quincy.

She added the state wanted to buy land from her and other property owners to build a road out into that field, but she and most of the others weren’t interested in selling.

Simpson said she understood why she wasn’t allowed to be on the AOC committee because of this conflict, but thought one of the other supervisors should have been invited to sit on it.

Thrall recalled the board appointed Simpson and Olsen as representatives to that committee but “at some point that group decided they didn’t want input from the Board of Supervisors, obviously.”

Simpson had talked with the local judges and the administrator of the courts “and they did say there would be a conflict of interest with negotiating property. I thought it was county property; I didn’t know it was my own property.”

Thrall was concerned that the planning building might have been designated as a historical building, meaning it couldn’t be torn down.

Meacher said that wasn’t the case.

County Assessor Chuck Leonhardt agreed with Meacher, “That structure was built in the 1970s or early 1980s. While it has that facade it’s a fairly modern building.”

Before continuing, Leonhardt admitted with a laugh that he could have a perceived conflict of interest because his office was in that building, “But, I respect the board’s ability to make decisions relative to the facilities of the county and the location of the assessor’s office so let me clear that up.”

“The county does have a significant amount of bonded indebtedness that was invested in that structure,” he added, “so when they look at a proposal they need to recognize that it would probably, hopefully, achieve significant debt relief to offset the investment that they made.”

Ingstad said the whole discussion might end up being meaningless because much of the county’s property was given as collateral for the new health and human services building.

He said if Dame Shirley and the planning building were part of that arrangement, “it might be very difficult for us to get that released.”

Olsen observed that the armory wasn’t included in that bonding process.

Ingstad commented the planning building surely would be.

Swofford said county auditor Shawn Montgomery told him most of the county property was involved in that bond.

Leonhardt told the board the bonding wasn’t necessarily the last word, “sometimes they’ll make a partial release, but they’re going to want sufficient debt reduction to offset the collateral which they’ve released.”

Barbara Palmerton, fiscal officer for the district attorney, said incoming DA David Hollister was “very concerned that we be located in some proximity to the new courthouse.”

“It would be really impossible for us to function if we were for instance located in this building here and the courthouse was over at the armory.

“I don’t know what the discussions have been about finding a place for the district attorney’s office near wherever the new facility is located.”

Her impression was that there would be some green space preserved in front of the new courthouse if it was located at Dame Shirley.

Olsen told her the current probation building was originally considered as a location for the DA’s office when the armory was purchased.

Simpson moved to authorize the chair to sign a letter of interest and Meacher seconded the motion.


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