On Tuesday, the Oakley City Council in a split 2-2 vote failed to push forward a cooperative agreement with the county that potentially could have created a library at the former Contra Costa County Sheriff Substation on O’Hara Avenue.
Back in September,, the Board of Supervisors approved an amount not to exceed $200,000 for the demolition of the former Contra Costa County Sheriff Substation (210 O’Hara Avenue) and transfer the property to the City of Oakley for the term of Sept. 7, 2021 to July 30, 2024.
Summary and Background
The County Sheriff’s Office relocated their operations from the building at 210 O’Hara Avenue to another east county location. The building is vacant and has become an
attractive nuisance in the City and has required weekly clean up by the County Public Works staff over the past several months. Over this time, Staff has worked with the County on the attached agreement that would allow for the demolition of the building and potentially using the site for a City library.
The main points of the cooperative agreement would be:
- Allow the City to demolish the building with the current estimate of the
demolition costs being $400,000. Upon completion of the demolition the County would reimburse the City for 50%, minus the costs associated with keeping the existing wireless communication tower operational, of the demo costs and transfer the property to the City for use as a library site
- Allow the City or other groups, such as the Friends of the Oakley Library, to seek funding for library construction within 36 months of the transfer of the property, then the property would revert back to the County.
The County Board of Supervisors authorized the County Administrator to sign and execute the attached agreement at their September 7, 2021 Board Meeting.
The City would be responsible for the 50% of the demolition cost or up to $200,000. In the event that library funding could not be secured within 36 months, the City would have to pay the County back their share of the demolition.
According to Interim City Manager Josh McMurray, this process would allow the city to seek funding once this is approved.
“There are opportunities available and there are opportunities for the Friends of the Oakley Library or the citizens in general to have a voter led initiative that would get a ballot measure for some assessment that would be applied equally per parcel in the city to fund operation, maintenance and the construction of the library,” explained McMurray. “There are multiple vehicles and avenues that could be pursued.”
McMurrary called the demolition of the building just the first step that would allow for moving forward with seeking funding noting it would cost more to do a retrofit of the 30-year-old building versus a tear down and building new.
“This really is the first step as the building as become an attractive nuisance as the county has recently installed fencing to prevent the homeless and others from breaking into the building and using it. Up until then it was a weekly occurrence to have county public works staff out in the city cleaning up that building,” said McMurray which included Oakley Police responding to the building.
Councilwoman Anissa Williams asked if they didn’t agree to this and left it up to the county would this ever get demolished and could they save the money – while asking where the money comes for this.
“Are we diverting from other infrastructure and things the city desperately needs to do this,” asked Williams.
McMurray said the money has already been budgeted. He said the county has no plans to demolish the structure and they have many other infrastructure needs higher in the priorities and could be years before they demolish it.
“This agreement gives the city some control for 3-years to control our own destiny,” said McMurray noting that if nothing happens in three years, it would revert back to the county. “They could go out in three years, demolish the building and sell it on the consent agenda as surplus priority and identify it that way and could be an affordable housing site. Its large enough to put some housing on it and I think the cooperative agreement to protect the city to have some control over the next few years so that is what is important.”
Williams said she was 100% for this as she campaigned on getting a library and was optimistic, they could find funding and not seek a ballot initiative.
She also noted she runs her business right next to the Brentwood library and its busy with many residents from Oakley going there because the current library at Freedom High School doesn’t have the features available in Brentwood.
“I am 100% for this… this is make sense,” said Williams. “I just think we should absolutely move forward a town of our size absolutely deserves a library and if this pandemic has taught us nothing else people need those connections and a way to get to it and not all of our residents have that without a good library.”
Councilman George Fuller said Oakley already has a library and was “tweaked” when people said they don’t while asking if there was any documentation to show the need.
McMurrary said there was no specific document, but in his 13-years working for the City of Oakley and sitting through a lot of council meetings and a lot of updates from County Library and Oakley Librarian, they continue to talk about how insufficient the current library is and how if they had more space they could offer more programs.
“My concern is over the years, I have talked to people and this site has come up in the past few years whether it be Mr. Montgomery, now Mr. McMurray, they have said we could probably get some funding be we will have to go out for a tax measure. I am just going to say straight out if it goes out for a tax measure, I will stand opposed to it,” said Fuller noting some areas in Oakley are already hammered with property taxes and the sales tax was increased by a ½ cent while increasing impact fees for fire. “I am going to stand opposed to putting any more taxes on those families.”
He continued by saying he was not pleased with spending $200k to “hold the marker” for the Friends of the Oakley Library – if they get it together, we build the library, if not, we lose $200k and it goes back to the county.
“I will vote now no, because I don’t think its good,” said Fuller.
He continued by noting they needed a teen center and called the senior center an embarrassment and a more affluent senior center to meet the community need.
“I would be happy to revisit this if the Friends of the Oakley Library bring in the data on why we need a library,” said Fuller. “I would love to see them put down what would be the use, especially in this day.”
Vice Mayor Randy Pope said the exposure to the city is $200k and said they had been down this road before and loves the idea of it becoming a gathering spot.
“We have put the money up before for an initiative and the condition was we would be reimbursed by the revenue generated. Well it failed,” stated Pope. “I don’t want to repeat again. Before I would approve something like this, I would have to have some pretty strong evidence that we would be able to produce a library with funding and operations… we are basically demolishing their property for $200k then we have an empty lot where the county can do whatever they want which is what we are kinda trying to control for 3-years because we don’t want it to be deemed surplus and then there is some project we don’t think is right for that spot.”
Pope called the property public eye sore, a public safety issue with homeless vandalizing it, litter.
“If it was any other property owner other than county how would we handle it,” asked Pope.
McMurray said they would handle it the same way they are handling it now who is helping us deal with the situation.
“The county has no intention to repurpose this building or sell this building. It will stay in our downtown for some time and we will deal with it just like another property,” said McMurray. “We ask them to board it up, fence it, take those precautionary measures to try and deter as much as the negativity as possible.”
Pope asked about giving the county citations through code enforcement which McMurray said they have tried to be “friendly” because they do respond. Pope confirmed it was a good working relationship which was his preference.
“If they don’t, I don’t think we should treat them any differently than any other citizen or property owner in the city and we have done legal actions against property owners… it’s their property, it’s their responsibility not ours,” stated Pope.
Pope said they had to be responsible for $200k even if it was earmarked noting they could do some preliminary plans on the Laurel extension to E Cypress and Summer Lakes calling it a “bigger priority” noting the fires, car accidents and one way in and one way out.’
“We have had the Laurel Road extension on the map for a while… maybe we use that $200k and drop some plans and get some shovel ready project we could submit,” said Pope. “There we are talking about peoples lives and that takes precedence… I would like to see that $200k go to that.”
Pope said his mind could be changed with data, Los Medanos College partnership, community initiative and grants where this could be successful.
“I can’t support it,” said Pope.
Williams reiterated her earlier clarification that this money was already allocated in the budget and would not be taking away from plans on the Laurel Road extension.
“Not as I see it,” said McMurray.
Willaims also clarified the ballot measure before was a tax they would impose on people and it needed to pass with 60% and it nearly passed at 57% saying the people wanted a library.
“We keep talking about I am not going to support a tax, it’s the citizens who vote to be tax,” stated Williams. “If it’s a citizen initiative ballot, it only has to be 50%+1 to pass. If a citizen had put it on the ballot, it would have passed.”
She urged the council to step back and look at the big picture because there is a need and impacts people who now have access.
Mayor Sue Higgins stated she liked the idea of demolishing the building because it is a huge public nuisance, a fire hazard while calling it a liability because its unusable.
“To say its going to be a tax, that’s kinda putting the cart before the horse because we don’t know if its going to be tax or not but library’s are great and I do understand that the property does belong to the school, but they just rent it to us, its small,” explained Higgins while saying the librarians have done a great job given what they have to work with. “I am in favor and I think we should have a vote.”
The item failed to pass in a 2-2 vote with Pope and Fuller against. Councilman Aaron Meadows abstained from the item due to nearby property that would be impacted should he have voted.