Surplus property worth millions of dollars could help finance new projects for Fresno County, but after several attempts county supervisors have been unable to agree to terms for the sales.
On Tuesday, supervisors will take another shot by trying to unload the Elkhorn boot camp land near Caruthers and its old juvenile hall at Ventura and Tenth streets near downtown Fresno.
It will mark the third time in 18 months that supervisors have considered selling Elkhorn. And a sale may not occur this go-around, either.
Board members will consider leasing or selling the land, or selling a portion and setting aside 85 acres or more for future groundwater-recharge facilities. That land would be sold to local irrigation districts, said Supervisor Buddy Mendes.
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Elkhorn is considered surplus property by the county because its previous purpose as a juvenile boot camp is outdated. In August, supervisors offered a variety of ideas while keeping a chunk of land along Highway 41 for a recharge basin and as highway-side property.
Supervisors have voted 3-2 on two occasions to put the boot camp up for sale; four votes are required to sell it.
In the 1950s, Elkhorn opened as an honor farm to provide food items for the jail. The honor farm closed in 1994, but Elkhorn reopened as a youth boot camp in 1997 before closing in 2009 because of budget cuts. The buildings have remained vacant since.
About 245 acres of farmland were leased at a price of $51,940 per year. That lease expired in 2014 as the county made preparations to sell.
I’m in no rush to sell it; I want to explore all the options and have a clear plan on where the proceeds are going.
Fresno County Supervisor Brian Pacheco
The board’s newer members, Mendes and Brian Pacheco, are leaning toward selling some of the land while keeping a chunk for water recharge.
Mendes said water from the Kings River can be stored in a recharge basin during flood years by using the nearby Liberty Canal to move the water. The land’s geology is highly suitable for recharge, he said.
Pacheco said he wants a thorough evaluation before agreeing to sell.
“I think the discussion is just to get further clarification because it was pretty vague the last time,” he said. “I’m in no rush to sell it; I want to explore all the options and have a clear plan on where the proceeds are going.”
Supervisor Andreas Borgeas said he wants proceeds to go for county projects that have been idling, including a new sheriff’s substation and district attorney’s offices. He and other supervisors don’t like the leasing option because the county “shouldn’t be in the land business,” he said.
A major reason, he said, is the cost to maintain the properties. Combined, the Elkhorn facility and juvenile justice center cost the county about $200,000 each year to maintain because of vandalism, theft and continuing disrepair.
$200,000Annual amount spent to maintain old juvenile hall and Elkhorn facility
“We have a lot of deferred maintenance and deferred infrastructure, and these surplus properties are a way to finance these projects,” he said.
Much of the former juvenile hall is vacant, but there are probation employees working on the site. A second parcel, south of the juvenile facility, is used for offices for the county’s general services department. The county is seeking a new office for the general services employees.
The land value for juvenile hall and general services offices is about $2.2 million, said Robert Bash, general services director.
County reports indicate that boilers, heating, ventilation and fire-suppression upgrades are required. To convert the building to offices also would be expensive, county officials say.
The plan is to propose selling the 12.6 acres of land as if it was bare, Bash said. That would leave the responsibility of building demolitions for new owners, he said. Selling the old juvenile hall also requires a four-fifths vote of supervisors.
Much of the property was bought by the county in 1897. Juvenile hall opened in the 1950s and was vacated in 2006 when the Juvenile Justice Center near Malaga opened.