CHOWCHILLA — At their Aug. 6 ‘On the Road’ board meeting, held Tuesday evening at Fairmead Elementary in Chowchilla, Madera County supervisors approved a $708,600 plan to “build out” about 3,600 square feet of unfinished space on the third floor of the Madera County Government Center.
The so-called “tenant improvements” will result in the creation of new office space for the county’s Water and Natural Resources (WNR) division.
Supervisor approval of the plan was originally scheduled to take place at the July 16 regular board meeting but was postponed for several weeks to allow county officials to make slight changes in the project’s scope and funding details, according to Madera County Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Joel Bugey.
The prior plan had included about $25,000 in proposed alterations to the second floor offices of the Treasurer and Tax Collector. But those planned improvements were not included in the project supervisors approved Tuesday night.
Since the Water and Natural Resources department was created about three years ago, Director Stephanie Anagnoson and her staff have been working in cramped quarters on the Government Center’s fourth floor, sharing office space with Human Resources and County CAO Eric Fleming.
Construction is expected to begin next week and be completed just after the first of the year.
Clovis-based Paul Halagian Architects drew up the plans for the project. Halagian’s firm is also designing the new, $25 million Oakhurst Community College Center campus.
Harris Builders is the general contractor.
Madera County’s $33 million, four-story Government Center — and adjacent parking structure — opened in 2007.
But the 2008 financial crisis and resulting Great Recession hit Madera County hard, cutting the County’s revenues — and workforce — by more than half.
So for a number of years after the rest of the building opened and became operational, much of the Government Center’s third floor remained empty and contained unfinished square footage.
Third-floor offices for the Public Works and Community & Economic Development departments were added in 2014, still leaving about 3,800 square feet off the communal break room, space that will soon be finished to include an expansive new conference/presentation room.
“In the years to come, the Water and Natural Resources Department is going to do nothing but grow,” District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler said before the 4-0 vote to approve the project. Supervisor Rob Poythress was absent.
Supervisor Brett Fraser predicted the new conference room area would be put to good use. “There’s no shortage of water-related meetings going on these days” at the Government Center, Fraser said.
Wheeler also hailed the project as a sign of the County’s current financial health while emphasizing money for the third-floor expansion will not be coming out of the General Fund.
“Everything is being paid using impact fees the County charges developers to build all of these new houses,” Wheeler said.