HANFORD — In a change of tune from the beginning of the year, a majority of the Hanford City Council now seem willing to discuss the option of declaring the Rabobank building as surplus property.
At the Nov. 21 meeting, City Attorney Bob Dowd said in a 3-2 closed session vote, Council decided to begin the process of looking into declaring the city-owned Rabobank building as surplus.
Dowd clarified Tuesday that the building has not been declared surplus yet, council has only asked that staff look into the process and take the information back to them at a later meeting.
Dowd said the two councilmembers who voted against looking into the matter expressed they were comfortable maintaining the status quo, which is Rabobank continuing to lease the building.
“At this point, I see no reason to sell it,” said Hanford Mayor David Ayers. “It’s not costing us any money, it’s making us a little money — not much, but we’re making a little.”
Hanford City Manager Darrel Pyle said he was not sure off the top of his head how much money the Rabobank building brings to Hanford annually, nor how much the city pays to keep up the maintenance.
Ayers said he considers himself a preservationist and wants to preserve historical downtown buildings, especially if the city has the money needed to maintain those buildings.
If anything, Ayers said the building could be used for future expansion of city services if need be.
“We’re not saving money by eliminating a building that’s costing us nothing to maintain,” Ayers said.
Vice Mayor Sue Sorensen, however, said she is a proponent in minimizing the amount of properties the city’s owns. She said she believes it is not part of the city’s role to own property that competes with local businesses.
Sorensen said now is the right time to have this discussion because the building is well-maintained and could possibly bring in a decent amount of revenue.
Pyle said the last appraisal of the building came in at $860,000. He said the proceeds could be used for any general governmental purpose, including renovations of other city properties, like the Old Courthouse or Bastille.
The Old Courthouse is in need of a new heating and air conditioning unit, which could cost the city around $500,000. Previous estimates to renovate the Bastille were close to $1 million.
If the Rabobank building was to be declared surplus and sold, Sorensen said the revenue could be used to improve those buildings and make them more usable.
After the annual expense to maintain the Rabobank building, Sorensen said the actual income the city receives from the lease on the building is very little.
“We have to be fiscally responsible and make good use of taxpayer money,” Sorensen said.
Sorensen said she knows some people will be worried about preserving historical buildings, but said part of the agreement can be to make sure its appearance is maintained.
Councilmen Martin Devine and Francisco Ramirez could not be reached for comment, while Councilman Justin Mendes deferred to Dowd and Pyle.
At previous City Council meetings, Mendes had pitched the idea of selling city assets like the vacant land next to Hidden Valley Park and the Rabobank building to pay for the Bastille's renovation, but couldn’t get two other council members to agree with him at the time.
Pyle said the next steps include a discussion and possible vote on whether Council wants to declare the building as surplus.
Pyle said if a property were to be declared surplus, staff would notify other public entities that the building could be made available to them to purchase.
If other public entities do not respond with interest in acquiring the building, Pyle said Council may choose to sell it to a private party or company, or they may choose to do nothing and just keep it.