HANFORD – In the wake of the Hanford City Council deciding not to spend $1 million on needed work for the Bastille, officials at the Hanford Carnegie Museum are offering to take the dilapidated former county jail off the city's hands and fix it up.

"We want to keep it for the community of Hanford," said Patricia Dickerson, a volunteer at the Carnegie. "We have volunteers and backers that are willing to help fix it up and pay for the work."

Dickerson said the museum has brought on board AMVETS, a national veterans service organization that just added a Hanford branch.

Darren Clayton, a Hanford resident who was instrumental in getting the Hanford AMVETS branch off the ground, said the idea is to turn the Bastille into a museum for law enforcement, first responders and Kings County's military history.

"That's kind of how we got involved with it," he said. "When they said, 'Military museum,' we said, 'OK.'"

Clayton said veterans could donate construction labor and materials to do some of the work.

"We believe the Carnegie can do it cheaper than the city," Clayton said. "The Bastille is such a huge historical landmark right in the heart of downtown Hanford."

Hanford City Attorney Mario Zamora said that selling the Bastille would likely rid the city of liability for the state of the building.

"If the sale went through, the city would kind of cease to have any liability issues," he said. "In theory, that's how it would work. Once it's theirs, it's their responsibility."

Councilman Justin Mendes said "at this point, I have zero concerns with the Carnegie's proposal."

"They said they were going to [raise the money] through fundraising and grants," he said. "That's where it needs to go."

Mendes said the main attraction for him of selling the Bastille to the Carnegie is that the city would no longer be liable for the building.

According to Zamora, the Carnegie would be required to maintain the property "just like any other property owner in the city."

Zamora said the Carnegie would have to do a full seismic upgrade/new roof/other repairs that city officials estimate would cost approximately $1 million.

That was the package rejected by the City Council at its last meeting.

Officials say the work is necessary just to bring the building into a habitable state.

"When the council looks at that, they're going to have to determine, when we sell it to somebody, do they have the wherewithal and resources to restore the building to the condition it needs to be in to have tenants?" Zamora said.

Councilman Francisco Ramirez said selling the Bastille to the Carnegie would be a "win-win situation for the city."

"I really believe, with AMVETS being a part of it, and the Carnegie being a part of it, they're a [nonprofit organization], so they would have a better opportunity to get grants," Ramirez said.

Clayton said AMVETS could also get other veterans organizations involved in the effort.

"If the Carnegie gets [the building], then we can move forward," he said. "Right now, it's still kind of up in the air, as far as I understand."

The City Council hasn't made a decision yet to sell the Bastille to the Carnegie. The concept was first broached publicly by Dickerson at last week's council meeting.

"We're waiting for the City Council to call us in for a meeting, which will hopefully happen soon," she said.

The reporter can be reached at snidever@hanfordsentinel.com or 583-2432. 

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