Cramped for space at existing facilities located next to the airport in Weaverville, the Trinity County Building, Planning and Environmental Health Departments are on track to move downtown once the county completes its purchase of the former Bank of America and Scott Valley Bank building at 530 Main St.
The property was listed for sale by owners Jim and Deborah Huber for $375,000, but the county negotiated down to a purchase price of $300,000 plus closing costs during closed sessions of the Board of Supervisors allowed for real estate transactions.
Last week, the board voted 4-1 in open session to ratify the signature of County Administrative Officer Richard Kuhns on the county’s initial offer and purchase agreement and authorize him to sign all remaining documents to complete the purchase.
The property is currently vacant and contains 5,000 square feet of office space plus 23 dedicated parking spaces in back with the ability to create approximately six more below the existing driveway exit. Kuhns said the additional spaces would be for employees, leaving adequate space for customer parking.
“The vision is to move Planning, Building, Cannabis and Environmental Health all downtown, allowing us room to expand and ability to separate the departments, plus about 50 feet of counter space compared to the 12 feet we have now where people just have to wait their turn,” Kuhns said.
A $500,000 budget was set aside in 2018 out of cannabis license fee revenue to expand the space needed for the new program in the airport buildings the county also owns. Kuhns said the existing offices are maxed out with bathrooms and closets being used for storage, and there are regulatory limits on how much expansion can occur within the airport safety zone. He added the downtown building is a cement block structure in much better condition than the airport property. The roof is about 19 years into 25-year shingles, but remains in good shape.
After purchasing the building, there is a remodeling budget of about $190,000 to add cubicles, create offices and conference space allowing for some separation between departments. The estimate to expand and remodel at the airport was between $500,000 and $700,000, “and we’d still just have a 25-year building there,” Kuhns said.
Under the current arrangement, the cannabis division pays rent based on the amount of square footage it uses. In the downtown location, the other departments will pay rent to the cannabis division that put up the funding for the purchase. Amounts won’t be specified until square footages are allocated.
There were a couple of audience comments seeking transparency on the use of cannabis fee revenue. There was also one complaint about downtown parking being used by county employees.
Dana Ryan of Weaverville said he has no financial interest in the building, but has a residence on Court Street plagued by parking overflow from the county courthouse.
He said, "I have requested a parking plan, a design, but that hasn’t been provided. I agree it is probably a 100-year building, but some have talked about taking it down to create parking. Please don’t convert the middle of our historic downtown to county parking and plug it up for all the other businesses.”
Kuhns said the plan is to leave county vehicles where they are now out by the airport, not park them overnight downtown, and there is adequate parking in back of the building for both employees and customers.
Sup. Judy Morris said she loves the idea of the downtown purchase and move, but also has some concern about parking, so she cast the sole ‘no’ vote against going forward with the purchase.
Kuhns said he hopes to see remodeling completed in time for the departments to move in by early summer 2021.