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Northend residents assured county building is a priority

April 02, 2002|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — County Supervisor Gary Wyatt, in a meeting with Northend residents here Monday, vowed the supervisors will prioritize the building of the North County services facility and have a least a portion of the project done by year's end.

His comments came as the supervisors were expected to meet today to set a priority list for major construction projects.

Information on any decision made by the supervisors on the North County Services building, a project in the works for some four years, was unavailable at presstime.

On Monday, Wyatt and Ann Capela, county executive officer, spoke with the North County services committee, a group formed to lobby the county to increase services to the Valley's Northend. The committee is made up of residents in Brawley, Calipatria, Westmorland and outlying areas.

The committee has voiced concern that the supervisors four years ago promised a North County services building would become a reality but it has not come to fruition.


Wyatt told those gathered for the meeting at the Brawley Chamber of Commerce, "The will of the board continues to be that we have to get this project done."

He added, "This project will be at the top of the list, period."

He said the board has always been committed to the project, but added there have been delays as the scope of the project has increased, along with the county's workload.

The proposal calls for remodeling the Bank of America building on Main Street in Brawley to serve as the North County services facility.

In the late 1990s, the supervisors purchased the vacant BofA for $1.45 million, with another $460,000 set aside for the remodeling. The building is to house a new courthouse, sheriff's substation and provide other county services such as behavioral health.

There have been delays in the project. First, the state government increased the scope of the project to include more security for the facility. That meant the county had to seek an additional $400,000 in state grant money.

Upon receiving that grant, the county had $860,000 set aside for the project, and out of that $114,000 went to engineering and design costs.

Once the facility was designed the county put the project out to bid. The lowest bid came back at $1.65 million, more than the county could afford.

The county opted to divide the project into smaller portions, bidding out phases of the project instead of bidding the whole project as one package.

Wyatt told the committee Monday such a move could decrease costs and allow local contractors to bid on phases of the construction.

He added the county now has $758,000 available for the project and is seeking another $220,000 in state grants. In addition, the county Sheriff's Office and Behavioral Health Services have funding set aside for the building of their departments in the BofA building.

Wyatt said the county likely could afford about $1.4 million in costs for the project.

Wyatt added county staffers are in the process of dividing the project into separate bid packages. He said the bidding process will start again within weeks.

From that point it should take up to two months to complete the bidding, then work will get started. He said by the end of 2002 the county could be occupying at least the second floor of the building.

In addition, the county is involved in negotiations to move the Department of Social Services and employment training services into the vacant Vogel's building in Brawley.

Wyatt said that project is on a different timetable than the BofA building but such services could be available in that facility by the year's end.

Members of the North County services committee said they would attend today's supervisors' meeting.

The committee agreed to hold monthly meetings with county officials to follow the progress of the project.

>> Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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