Wednesday, January 28, 2009

County courthouse issues

dec. 08 unedited tahoe mt. news story
By Kathryn Reed

If only the city had done with the Johnson Boulevard property what the land owners had wanted, then the current bickering between government officials in South Lake Tahoe and Placerville would be a mute point.
The Johnson-Springmeyer clan gave land to the city several decades ago with the understanding a city hall would be built there. It never happened. Marjorie Springmeyer, who now resides in the Carson Valley, unsuccessfully sued the city for allowing the county to build a courthouse and jail there.
What was supposed to be a happy gathering spot for locals, turned into a housing facility for society’s degenerates – not exactly what the land givers intended.
Fast forward to 2009. The state is about to own the courthouse building. This is to comply with the 2002 Trial Court Facilities Act that mandates all California courthouses owned by counties become state property. The land becomes the state’s as well if the county owns it.
In the Johnson Boulevard case, the deed for the land remains in the hands of the city of South Lake Tahoe. The portion of the building used as a courthouse will go to the state.
On Nov. 18, the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to turn its court related properties over to the state by the end of the year. At issue is whether El Dorado County has the right to give California the courthouse building at 1354 Johnson Blvd.
An agreement between the city and county dated April 4, 1972, says in part, “This Agreement shall be binding upon and shall inure to the benefit of the successors of the parties. Except to the extent expressly provided for herein, neither party may assign any right or obligation hereunder without the written consent of the other.”
Ed Knapp, who works in the county counsel office, said, “First of all, the agreement says we can’t assign it. We are not assigning it. Assignment would be a voluntary act on our part. The statute says transfer. This is an involuntary act.”
City Manager Dave Jinkens and City Attorney Cathy DiCamillo are of the belief that the agreement the city has with county is a contract that trumps state law.
Jinkens is upset that he has been corresponding with the county since November 2007 about this issue, but that no one will meet with him. He didn’t know about the supervisors’ decision until the Tahoe Mountain News told him.
“It’s not like we are a subunit of the county,” Jinkens said. “Neither the state, nor county, nor city can violate a contract and I would think they would not want to. I think we have to go the next step if they are not going to ask for permission.”
While the city figures out what that next step is, the county is ignoring the city and doing what the state wants.
Because counties are deemed sub-entities of the state, unlike cities which are independent jurisdictions, the state has the power to take the courthouses. The state is not paying the counties for the buildings that were paid for county taxpayers. In fact, the county must pay $346,465 a year in maintenance fees to the state.

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