When Tuolumne General Medical Facility’s long-term care unit closed over the winter, the county turned its focus to finding a new use for the former hospital.
At Tuesday’s Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors meeting, County Administrator Craig Pedro conceded that was not going to be an easy task.
The cost of renovating the building for office space will likely be more than expected, and state and federal rules on local government reimbursement might make investing in the building less-than economical.
The situation “really frustrates me,” Pedro said during the meeting.
According to an architectural analysis, the Tuolumne General building will require as much as almost $7.5 million in work to make it ready for other uses — higher than the approximately $5 million initially anticipated.
When the county closed the hospital as a cost-saving measure, one idea for the building was to use it to house the county’s social service and public health departments.
The county pays $450,000 a year as part of lease agreements to house those two departments in offices off Cedar Road.
Remodel costs would include some demolition and abatement, structural upgrades, mechanical upgrades, site work for parking and utilities, and improvements to make the building accessible for people with physical disabilities.
“I don’t think wishful thinking is going to bring those costs down,” Pedro said, later adding there “might be other ways. … I think we’ve tried mightily.”
Pedro also said some regulations could actually make it more expensive to move those departments into a county-owned building. Pedro said much of the county’s rent is reimbursed by the state and federal governments, and reimbursement rules could cut that number if the county houses those offices in its own buildings.
“It appears they really favor renting facilities forever,” he said. “I don’t particularly think that’s in the best interest of the taxpayer.”
The Board of Supervisors didn’t make any decisions on TGMF during the meeting, and Pedro said the county has a number of options to consider.
Pedro said he will look for ways to lower the rehab costs or find other ways to finance them. He also said the county could look at other uses for the building like housing the Sheriff’s Office, turning it into a homeless shelter, using it as a business incubator or selling it.
The board did vote to extend the lease agreements to June 2015 for public health and to June 2018 for social services.
In other news, the county Board of Supervisors:
• Approved an agreement to sell to the state 4.3-acres of land at the county’s new Law and Justice Center. The State Administrative Office of the Courts will pay $800,000 for the property, which comes out to a rate of about $185,000 per acre. Pedro said the county purchased the justice center property for $88,000 per acre.
The county wrapped up a major phase last week at the justice center campus, as the contractor was scheduled to finish painting stripes on the roads adjacent to the Old Wards Ferry Road property. The county spent approximately $2.86 million on infrastructure for the center, installing utilities and improving roads in and around the site.
The two-story, five courtroom courthouse building is supposed to open by 2014, and officials say it will eventually house a jail, juvenile detention center and other law enforcement offices.
• Voted to change the designation for the 3.9-acre Leland Meadow snow park from Mixed Use and Medium Density Residential to Parks and Recreation, rezone the former site of Camp Cedarbrook to allow timber harvesting and clearing of some abandoned facilities, rezone a light industrial property on Amy Drive in Mono Vista to allow a new campus for the Gold Rush Charter School, and change a 8.8 acre site at 23866 Italian Bar Road from Rural Residential to Homestead Residential.
• Authorized county staff to send out a notice of intent to purchase a house at 1170-1180 S. Washington St. for a Behavioral Health housing program. The $343,000 purchase price would be covered by federal funds.