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County building demo could start in weeks

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Demolition could start in three to four weeks at Curry County’s Gidding Street building.

County commissioners approved a request Friday to start the process of obtaining permits, despite objections from Commissioner-elect Chet Spear the commission was “getting the cart before the horse.”

Spear pointed out commissioners haven’t yet approved a $15 million bond issue that would pay for renovation of the jail and the Gidding building. Chairman Frank Blackburn countered the issue is on the agenda for a Nov. 18 meeting.

“I haven’t heard from the other commissioners,” Blackburn said, “but I expect it will pass.”

Blackburn and Commissioners Tim Ashley and Wendell Bostwick noted after the meeting the demolition was necessary regardless what commissioners eventually decided would happen with the Gidding building. It is going to be renovated and become the home for all county administrative and elected offices, they said.

“We have the money,” said Blackburn, who has been pushing to get the project started before Jan. 1.

How it will be renovated, what shape it will eventually take, will have to wait. After a lengthy discussion ending with more questions than answers, commissioners voted to send architects back to the drawing board to offer two additional options than the ones presented.

Commissioners did, however, kill a controversial mezzanine concept — adding a third floor inside the building — after architects said the maximum ceiling height that could be squeezed into existing space was 8 feet. Blackburn had said earlier he believes public buildings should have 10-foot ceilings.

Commissioners approved a motion to have architects return later with two different options: one with a large addition to the building to keep the post office intact and the other without the post office and a smaller addition.

During their lengthy discourse, Commissioner Bobby Sandoval questioned if the district attorney really needed the entire second floor it now occupies. The county could save money by using some of the space occupied by the district attorney’s office as county offices.

“I know I’ll probably make a lot of enemies suggesting this,” said Sandoval, “but I have not seen any kind of study that shows the number of square feet per person working in the district attorney’s office.”

Bostwick said moving the post office out of the building and adding a smaller addition could save the county as much as $1 million off the estimated price of $4 million to renovate. He, Blackburn and Sandoval each said the Postal Service is on record wanting to close shop in downtown Clovis.

Ashley, however, countered the post office was in the building because “a lot of folks got together and said they wanted it to stay downtown.”

Sandoval said the Postal Service has repeatedly said it had no objection to closing the post office and consolidating all its services at its other post office on 21st Street.

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