Questions raised over maintenance costs of unused buildings

FRESNO, Calif.

Keeping the lights on and maintaining the shutdown Elkhorn boot camp cost more than $200 thousand, while the county spent more than $1 hundred thousand on the now empty juvenile hall. County Supervisor Chairman Phil Larson said the money had to be spent. "Absolutely, it's a necessary cost."

County Administrator John Navarette says, like any landlord the county has to maintain things like elevators, emergency systems, plumbing. "The minute we shut down and mothball a facility it would cost me more to reactivate it when I start moving new operations into the facility. So that's just a necessity to secure the facility."

The county is looking at moving other operations out of leased facilities and into those buildings but there's no timetable.

Taxpayer advocate Chris Mathys sees money being wasted. "To have a vacant building and pay out half a million a year to keep it up when nobody's using it is a real waste of taxpayer money."

Eric Schmidt the head of the union representing Fresno County's Sheriff's deputies also has problems with the expenditures. "I understand there's upkeep that needs to happen but at the same time jail floors aren't being filled with staff and people are getting released from custody and less deputies on the street ultimately is what that comes down to."

Three other unused county owned buildings will soon be on the market. They will be asking more than $4 four hundred thousand for the soon to be vacated County Morgue. Nearly a quarter of a million dollars is being asked for a downtown office building, that once housed the Mexican Consulate, and the former library in Orange Cove is on the block for around $100 thousand. But Larson knows, they will be a tough sell.

"We had three facilities up for sale earlier at the minimum bid which was supposedly the market bid and nobody even showed up to bid," said Larson. "So, we've lowered the price and we'll try to sell them again, but we'll see what happens."

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