County to lease temporary space for Defender’s Office
board nixes option to renovate space scheduled for demolition
The Yuma County Board of Supervisors approved a lease for “long-term, temporary” office space for the Public Defender’s Office, which must move out of the Historic Courthouse to make room for the newly established Division 7 of the Superior Court.
The supervisors agreed that it’s better to lease space than spend money on renovating space that will be demolished for construction of a new permanent home for the Public Defender’s Office.
The county will enter into a lease agreement with Tres Cuates for property located at 241 S. Main St. However, this space alone is not enough to house all 24 staff members of the Public
Defender’s Office. The plan is to separate the staff between two buildings, one at 241 S. Main St., and the former Risk Management facility at 145 S. 2nd Ave.
The supervisors had previously accepted the recommendation of moving the Public Defender into three separate buildings, the former Risk Management facility and the newly acquired Camarena west and east buildings, located at 217 S. 2nd Ave., which the county bought for the Public Defender’s future home.
The initial project budget was estimated at $350,000. However, county staff later discovered the Camarena buildings are in worse condition than they realized.
If the county had opted to go forward with the initial plan, the renovation budget of $350,000 would have jumped by $786,150 to adequately repair and renovate all three facilities.
As an alternative to renovating these facilities, staff explored leasing other space for up to 12 staff members of the Public Defender’s Office and found 4,500 square feet of office space located at 241 S. Main St., just a half block away.
Staff noted that these offices were most recently used by a local law firm and, as such, the existing configuration of office space is “already satisfactorily arranged” for the Public Defender’s staff, without the need for more improvements.
The lease has a term of two years, with a third year option and the ability to terminate with a 90-day notice. The cost for the first year, including improvements, such as adding IT connectivity and security upgrades, will cost $80,194. The total cost at the end of the second year will be $140,638 and at the end of the third year, $201,082.
The 241 S. Main St. building was most recently used as a law office and is in good condition and move-in ready, according to David Hylland, construction projects director.
“This space is move-in ready so we could get up to half of the Public Defender staff out of the Historic Courthouse into that location immediately, which frees it up,” Hylland said, noting that staff will still need to be split between two buildings.
He added that Division 7 is up and running and sharing courtroom space. “But they’re anxious, of course,” he noted.
All the supervisors, with Jonathan Lines absent, nixed the idea of spending money on a building that will be demolished.
“I would hate to spend $800,000 and then come in the next couple years and knock it down and spend a million and a half,” Chairman Martin Porchas said. “I don’t want to continue spending, putting in money into an old building, and then we’re gonna knock it down in a couple of years … That to me is just not very smart.”
Supervisor Tony Reyes agreed. “I don’t mind leasing for a while,” he said.
Renovating the building to be demolished is “putting good money after bad and it’s gonna be a nightmare,” Supervisor Darren Simmons said. “Whereas if we leased Main Street for a couple of years, we’ll have 197 (Main St., the new administrative building) up and running within two to three years, and then this whole building is going to be vacant, Hoppstetter is going to be vacant. We’re going to have more space than we know what to do with.”
“We’re not remodeling the Camarena building when we’re going to tear it down. That’s pointless to me,” Supervisor Lynne Pancrazi added.
The move-in target date for the leased building is March 1.