Fresno County’s old juvenile hall has a price, but it’s unclear whether anyone will want to shell out more than $4 million to buy it and neighboring offices near downtown Fresno.
Fresno County supervisors placed a minimum bid of $4.386 million, which doubles the minimum bid county staff was seeking for the nearly 12.6 acres of land near Ventura Avenue and Tenth Street. Juvenile hall was closed in 2006. Some offices are in use on a second parcel south of juvenile hall for county probation and general services employees.
Supervisors delayed action to sell the former Elkhorn Boot Camp near Caruthers to obtain evaluations about the potential for groundwater recharge basins on the land.
The minimum bid for the old juvenile hall site was proposed as $2.193 million for bare land. County staff believes the 1970s-era buildings would have no use for a new buyer and would be demolished.
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Supervisor Debbie Poochigian said the county should include some cost for acquiring buildings on the southern portion of the property. The cost of the buildings and improvements are valued at about $4.3 million, the county’s appraisal said.
“You want to sell it, but you don’t want to give it away,” Poochigian said.
The land was bought by the county for $7,000 in 1897.
The appraiser’s report for the county said that age, condition, design and purpose of the buildings have outlived their economic and useful life, said Robert Bash, the county’s general services director.
The best use for the land is as multifamily housing, he said, quoting the appraiser’s report.
Jean Rousseau, county administrator, said the county has gotten its “money’s worth” out of the property and “probably stayed in it a little longer than we should have.” He said it also continues to be expensive to maintain the property, which costs $127,000 to $140,000 annually.
You want to sell it, but you don’t want to give it away.
Debbie Poochigian, Fresno County supervisor
The buildings, Rousseau told supervisors, also lack the efficiency of modern facilities, are more costly to maintain and aren’t energy efficient.
Supervisors didn’t approve the sale of the old Elkhorn juvenile boot camp because supervisors want to continue exploring the possibility that all or parts of the land could serve as a water recharge basin and be especially useful in flood years to draw off overflow and retain it.
Elkhorn boot camp, which hasn’t been used since 2009, has been vandalized and covered in graffiti. It costs the county about $80,000 to maintain the property each year, totaling more than $409,000 in the past four years.
Board Chairman Buddy Mendes said his priorities are to sell at least a portion of the property to irrigation districts to operate a groundwater recharge facility and to provide money for new county facilities.
Geologist Robert Merrill suggested the county could retain the entire 317 acres for potential recharge because soils on the site are amenable for recharge.
“Converting the Elkhorn area to recharge could help when flood waters are available while reducing the serious groundwater overdraft to the west,” Merrill said.
$18,250Price per acre proposed for Elkhorn boot camp land
The Elkhorn property is adjacent to Liberty Canal. It’s likely a recharge basin would not cover the entire parcel, but it won’t be known until core samples can be done, county officials say.
Supervisor Brian Pacheco said he supports selling the land to an agency that has expertise in water recharge and that can improve the water table for people living and farming in the area.
Supervisor Henry R. Perea suggested improving the site could still make it suitable as a corrections facility, and he will consult with Sheriff Margaret Mims.
The entire property was appraised at about $5.8 million, or $18,250 per acre.
Supervisors want to use proceeds from the property sales to build new county facilities, such as a sheriff’s substation in southeast Fresno and new offices for the district attorney.