By Deb Murphy
Considering a potential $10 million savings on South County offices, Mono County’s Board of Supervisors had to take a two-week breath before committing to a brand, new facility.
“We’re ready to move forward and execute a contract with a designer” on the McFlex parcel project, Tony Dublino, assistant CAO, reported at Tuesday’s board meeting. But, with Mammoth Mall on the market since February and a shot at meeting the goal of a “safe, comfortable, modest” county facility in Mammoth, at half the price of the $21 million project near the Courthouse, Dublino needed input from the board before going full bore on a new building.
Both Dublino and CAO Leslie Chapman acknowledged more information and analysis on Mammoth Mall was necessary. Tuesday’s ask wasn’t for a decision, just for direction.
Dublino estimated the cost of turning the upper floor of the mall into office space would cost approximately $4.5 million; the building’s asking price is $6 million. The County would end up being landlord to two existing restaurant tenants.
Chapman conceded the total cost of purchase and conversion would probably be more than the $10.5 million estimate.
But, Mammoth Mall shares some potential issues with the Sierra Center Mall, the current location of South County staff. Sierra Center was rejected last summer when the Board directed staff to issues requests for proposals on a new facility. Those proposals have been received and narrowed to three firms. With an October, 2019 semi-deadline to be in the new facility, a decision has to be made, soon.
While most of the Supervisors acknowledged the potential savings was worth looking into, Stacy Corless wasn’t on board at all.
“I don’t think Mammoth Mall meets our requirements for a safe, comfortable, modest facility,” Corless said. “I want to know how the employees feel, what the town thinks.” She noted converting retail to office space wasn’t in compliance with either the Town’s zoning or vision.
“The Mall needs complete renovation, not just improvements,” she noted, describing the facility as a cavernous space, adding the County had no knowledge if the building’s infrastructure would even support the needs of the staff.
Staff will come to the Board’s May 1 meeting with more cost estimates. At that point, the Board will make the final decision: McFlex or Mammoth Mall.