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County to expand its water offices

Madera County plans to invite contractors to offer estimates for a project to install offices, cubicles, and a large multipurpose room in the government center’s third floor.

The Board of Supervisors approved initial spending for the project Oct. 30 with a 4-1 vote. District 3 Supervisor Robert Poythress dissented.

The expansion would house the Water and Natural Resources Department, which currently shares space on the fourth floor with the county’s administrative office. The county created the department in response to the state’s 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which enables local governments to manage their underground water supplies.

District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler expects the department to grow, and noted that staff was “really stuffed” into their fourth floor offices, which made staff meetings difficult.

District 2 Supervisor David Rogers agreed. “We anticipate this department probably to grow, and I think soon. The SGMA process is really moving ahead,” said Rogers, who listed potential future projects such as providing water to areas unserved by water districts, recharging groundwater, and removing arundo (an invasive reed) from sloughs.

The project would involve an unused part of the third floor. The third and fourth floors of the government center were intentionally built with undeveloped space for future use.

About half of the third floor expansion would consist of a 1,700 square feet multipurpose room, that could hold up to 150 people and later, if needed, be converted to offices for public works and community economic development. The rest of the area would house three offices and three cubicle workstations.

“Both spaces will require installation of T-bar ceilings, paint, flooring, data; and then tie in to existing electrical, plumbing, fire, and HVAC systems,” said General Services Manager Maria Miranda.

The project is estimated to cost $611,000 or $150 per square foot. Thus far, supervisors have only approved the spending of $85,000 to pay for architectural services, project management and advertising — all of which will be used for competitive bidding on the project. That initial cost will come from impact fees paid by developers. Supervisors will discuss the project again after bidding finishes and a construction contract can be presented for approval.

The county has received an influx of impact fees due to recent developments, according to Miranda, “making this a good time to consider expanding the third floor space.”

Poythress agreed with the need for more space for the water department, but proposed adding office space to the fourth floor instead, which would be cheaper due to existing improvements there. Chief Administrative Officer Eric Fleming responded that he didn’t want to lose the current flexibility of space on the fourth floor.

The fourth floor has only three or four thousand square feet of unused space, according to Mendoza. The rest contains offices, some of which are used for storage.

New furniture for the expansion project would amount to $40,000 or less of the total cost, according to Capital Project Manager Jorge Mendoza. So District 1 Supervisor Brett Frazier suggested re-using furniture formerly used by the Department of Social Services. He said the county was unable to sell it for a decent price on the open market anyway. “If we need it, why wouldn’t we use it?” he asked.

A $53 million office complex to house the county departments of public health and social services is under construction on the corner of Avenue 14 1/2 and Road 28. It is expected to open next year.

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