HANFORD - The city of Hanford is now the proud new owner of four of downtown’s most iconic sites.
The City Council voted Tuesday to approve an agreement to terminate its current lease from the county and take ownership of the Old Courthouse, The Bastille, Veterans/Senior Center and the old post office at Eighth and Douty streets.
The council voted 4-0, with Councilman Jim Irwin absent, to approve the agreement and purchase the buildings for $1 each.
Mayor Gary Pannett re-iterated that downtown revitalization has been one of his top priorities as mayor.
“I have been pro-purchasing those buildings since the beginning,” Pannett said.
Since 1975, the city has leased the buildings from Kings County for $1 each. As written, the 59-year lease would have expired in 2034 with an option to extend for an additional 40 years.
The Bastille, which has been without a tenant since 2009, requires extensive work including roofing, foundation support upgrades and brick and mortar repairs. The Old Courthouse is in need of upgrades to its air conditioning and electrical systems.
City Manager Darrel Pyle said the Veterans/Senior Center is in good condition, as is the old post office, which is currently occupied by Rabobank.
“The Bastille probably needs the most attention,” Pyle said. “The Courthouse is virtually fully leased up. With another investment, that third floor could be utilized much more frequently.”
Although the city has not solicited bids for the work, officials estimate the improvements could cost around $1 million.
Vice Mayor Russ Curry said he had initially opposed purchasing the buildings until he read the city’s lease with the county.
Among the lease terms was a provision that would have allowed the county to demand the removal of any improvements when the lease expired. The provision could have also forced the city to demolish the buildings at that time if the county requested it.
While the purchase protects the buildings from possible demolition, Curry said he still has some concerns about how future city leaders may handle the historic assets.
“My biggest fear is that this council or future councils will sell one of these buildings to fix up another building that we own, Curry said. “I hope that doesn’t ever occur.”
Earlier this year, the council considered selling an 18.1-acre parcel west of Hidden Valley Park. While the land was at one time slated for use as additional park space, it has sat vacant since the city purchased it in 1967 along with the 20 acres where Hidden Valley Park now stands.
An appraisal indicated that selling the land for single-family residential development could fetch about $1.2 million. Pyle told the council the money could be used to pay for needed improvements to buildings like the Old Courthouse and The Bastille.
A large showing of citizens spoke against selling the land, instead favoring keeping it to expand Hidden Valley Park.
The council ultimately voted on Feb. 4 against the sale and expressed a desire to form a plan to develop the land into a park.
Without the proceeds from that sale, it is unclear how the city will pay for the improvements to the Old Courthouse and The Bastille.
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