HANFORD – The Hanford City Council reversed course this week and rejected a $1 million renovation package for the Bastille.
The council voted 5-0 Tuesday night to kill the proposal. The vote was an about-face from the March 7 meeting in which a majority of council members said they wanted the city to move forward with the $1 million package.
Tuesday's unanimous vote came after members of the public showed up at the meeting to criticize the proposed expenditure as wasteful and unnecessary.
"I think it's time we sell [the Bastille]," said Hanford resident Richard Pontecorvo. "The city has other issues to address before spending $1 million on a [vacant] building."
Pontecorvo is also a Hanford Police Department detective.
Several speakers brought up repairs needed at the police station, including the need for a new roof and the need for the building to be fumigated to deal with a termite infestation.
"We citizens don't care how [the Bastille] makes you feel," said Hanford resident Lee Wisecarver. "The city has bigger issues it needs to fix."
Patricia Dickerson, a volunteer at the Carnegie Museum, said the Carnegie would be willing to buy the Bastille from the city and turn it into a museum as well as a venue for events.
The renovation package would have included a new roof, seismic upgrades and other changes to make the building comply with Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility standards.
The package would have been the minimal amount of work that's legally required to make the long-vacant building inhabitable by a tenant, but it would not have included interior renovation work needed to make the building attractive to would-be tenants.
The overwhelming majority of the members of the public who spoke Tuesday about the proposed $1 million renovation were against it.
This was a departure from the March 7 council meeting, where a majority of those speaking on the issue urged the council to go ahead with the renovation and borrow money from other budget categories if necessary.
The expenditure, which would have come out of the city's accumulated capital outlays fund, would have left the fund with about $200,000 on June 30, 2018, according to city documents.
That would have been about $350,000 short of the $550,000 needed to put a new HVAC system in the Old Courthouse building in Civic Park.
That project hasn't been budgeted for yet.
Since the Old Courthouse has paying tenants in it, Kings County Supervisor and Hanford resident Doug Verboon urged council members to prioritize it over the Bastille.
"My advice to you is, take care of the [tenants] you have now that are existing," Verboon said.
The critical comments appeared to have an impact on council members.
"We've heard a lot of conversation tonight about spending money on a building that doesn't have a tenant, that we don't have a plan for," said Vice-Mayor Sue Sorensen.
"I'm not going to support the $1 million," said Councilman Francisco Ramirez. "I think logically that's stupid."
At the March 7 meeting, Ramirez, Councilman Martin Devine and Mayor David Ayers had urged the council to move forward with the renovation project and had urged city staff to figure out a way to come up with the money.
Sorensen had asked for more study of different financing options, including the possibility of doing the project piecemeal over a longer period of time.
Justin Mendes, the only council member who was consistently against spending $1 million on the Bastille, chided the council Tuesday for even considering the expenditure.
"I do want to say that it's kind of shameful that this came to us," Mendes said. "I hope everyone knows that [Hanford] police officers on their days off are doing construction work on their own police building, and we are entertaining this? Ridiculous. This was a million dollars to not solve a single problem."
"I feel there was a miscommunication between the council and what their constituents wanted," said Wisecarver after Tuesday's vote, referring to the council's March 7 stance in favor of renovation. "I'd encourage more people to come out and voice their opinion."
Hanford Public Works Director Lou Camara is expected to come back to the council at a future meeting to ask for approval of a minimal package to keep the Bastille's roof from leaking and to keep bricks from falling off the outside wall.
Camara said the package, which he estimated would cost less than $100,000, will likely include replacing boarded-up windows with plastic see-through plates, replacing awnings and replacing an uneven brick walkway with concrete paving stones west of the Bastille.