HANFORD – City officials are criticizing a disputed proposal for the Carnegie Museum to buy or lease the Bastille and raise money to fix it up.

Written copies of the proposal were submitted by Carnegie volunteer Patricia Dickerson to members of the Hanford City Council on March 21.

The legitimacy of the proposal, which would have the Carnegie hosting overnight events in the Bastille as part of a plan to raise money to renovate the Bastille, has been in dispute, with Carnegie Board President Jim MacLellan saying Dickerson wasn't authorized to make the proposal to the council on behalf of the Carnegie.

However, Carnegie Treasurer Scott Yarbrough said in a written statement released Monday that Dickerson was authorized to make the proposal.

Dickerson has said that MacClellan gave her the go-ahead, a claim MacLellan denied in an interview last week.

MacLellan said in an interview Monday that the only thing he authorized was the formation of an ad-hoc committee consisting of some Carnegie board members to explore the idea of taking on the Bastille.

MacLellan said he first learned about Dickerson's proposal by reading The Sentinel.

Yarbrough couldn't be reached Monday for comment.

According to the proposal, the Carnegie would create a group called "Hanford Bastille Innovations" to buy or lease the Bastille and operate "the building for five years [and] six months, providing Ghost tours, Ghost Investigations, Historical Tours, Overnight stays, minor concessions (no alcohol, no cooking)."

The overnight stays would be "18+ years old only" and would be "essentially a Lock-in from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m."

"Overnight guests will sleep in the Bastille," according to one statement in the proposal. "The next morning (if they make it) guests are offered coffee, local donuts, and chance to share there experiences as well as a 'I Survived a night in the Bastille' T-shirt."

In another variation, guests would be given "a Night Bag, with water, snacks, flashlight, and EVP recorder."

Other planned events, including paranormal ghost tours, would last anywhere from 30 minutes to approximately three hours.

The proposal says the effort "expects to accumulate $1,000,000" in five years.

City officials say the basic renovation package needed to get the building in a habitable state will cost about $1 million. The price tag includes a new roof and seismic retrofitting.

According to city officials reached Monday for comment, that work has to be done before anybody can occupy the building.

"The building is uninhabitable at this time," said Hanford City Manager Darrel Pyle. "We wouldn't let anybody occupy the building. The city's building department issues certificates of building occupancy. The building department would not do that." 

"If we entered into any agreement with anybody to lease it or purchase it, they're going to have to make those improvements," said Hanford Community Development Director Darlene Mata.

MacLellan said that he toured the Bastille recently.

He said that based on the deteriorated state of the building, Dickerson's plan couldn't work.

"I knew, when I read the proposal, there was no way there were going to hold events there," MacLellan said. "I knew the city wouldn’t allow it, because the building is basically condemned.”

"The building is in desperate need of safety renovations," said Jerry Irons, a local developer who last year proposed to bring a microbrewery into the Bastille. "Whatever deal is cut, just to get in the front door, they're going to have to spend [up to] $1 million to make it safe."

City Council members balked at the proposal after Irons estimated that the full cost of getting the Bastille ready for a restaurant tenant, which would include putting in a kitchen and an elevator, is at least $2.25 million.

Hanford Mayor David Ayers conceded that the Bastille would have to be renovated before the Carnegie could occupy it.

"It's going to take a substantial amount of money to get the building up to a state where it is usable," Ayers said. 

He also said there's "some controversy on the [Carnegie] board."

"At this point, because of the controversy, I don't consider [the proposal submitted by Dickerson] to be a true proposal," Ayers said.

"There hasn't been time for me to absorb all the information floating around or to adequately familiarize myself with the history [regarding] these thorny issues," said Carnegie Board member Wyleen Luoma in a written statement.

Board members Kim Spicer and Darren Clayton couldn't be immediately reached Monday for comment.

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

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