Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Solano County Board of Supervisors approved a $4 million plan to turn the old library building on Texas Street into conference

August 15, 2007

Historic library being converted

By Ben Antonius

The old library building on Texas Street will serve a new purpose after the Solano County Board of Supervisors approved a $4 million plan to convert it into a conference center. Photo by Zachary Kaufman

FAIRFIELD - The Solano County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a $4 million plan to turn the old library building on Texas Street into a meeting and conference center.

Supervisor Barbara Kondylis was the only board member to vote against the plan, which would involve converting the building to house several offices, a food dispensing area and four conference rooms ranging in capacity from 30 to 200.

"I feel like we're drunken sailors the way we're spending money . . . with no consideration of unmet needs," Kondylis said. County Administrator Michael Johnson defended the project by saying it would fill a need for large meeting space, which he said is in high demand.

Using the historic building for meeting space would allow public access to an historic building, has the potential to generate revenue and is one of the least intrusive alternatives in terms of disrupting existing interior improvements, County Architect Kanon Artiche said.

There have been many suggestions over the years for what should happen to the library, which despite its age is not listed on any historic registries. Among the past suggestions were demolition, relocation to another site, use as a law library and use as retail or restaurant space.

The Solano County Historical Society had been lobbying for the museum idea, but that withered after it was estimated to take $5 million to renovate the building and turn it into a museum. Supervisors didn't want the county to foot the bill alone, and a viable business plan was never developed.

Vallejo resident Donald Tipton and Suisun City resident George Guynn complained the county seemed to have demanded more of other proposals for the building than it has of the conference center idea.

"I really think it's sad the historical society didn't get their project," Guynn said. "You're talking about spending $4 million, yet you nickle-and-dimed the historical society to death."

With the vote, $400,000 will be spent on design, engineering and construction management with San Jose-based Gilbane Building Company. The $4.1 million budget for the project is based on construction starting in June 2008 and being finished by March 2009.

Reach Ben Antonius at 427-6977 or

Supes OK coversion of Old Library
County leaders authorize up to $4.5 million to convert the building into a conference center with meeting rooms.
By Danny Bernardini/Staff Writer
Article Launched: 08/15/2007 07:00:14 AM PDT

The 76-year-old county library building, now out of use and in the shadow of the new towering county government center in downtown Fairfield, has been home to countless tenants.
Now, the Old Library is likely to have a new future, thanks to a vote Tuesday by the Solano County Board of Supervisors.

Plans are for the historic building to house conference and meetings rooms for county use following a 4-1 vote by the supervisors to spend a maximum $4.5 million converting the two-story, 11,000-square-foot building.

Supervisor Barbara Kondylis cast the dissenting vote, saying the county should look to using the money on other ventures such as a family law center.

"I feel like drunken sailors the way we're spending money," Kondylis said before the vote. "This is totally staff-driven. We need to look at it a little more intellectually and (be) less emotional."

The old library, adjacent to the government center on Texas Street, is needed for wide-scale training of county employees taking place throughout the year, staffers said.

Although the government center houses numerous meeting rooms, none of them has a capacity of more than 75 people. New rooms in the library building, according to plans, would have greater capacity.

Included in the plans are three meeting rooms, a food catering element, ADA-compliant restrooms and an elevator on the first floor.

The second story would feature three private offices, an open office area, more restrooms and another conference room. Also included in improvements is a new heating and air conditioning system.

What will be contained in the building wasn't a problem for most of the supervisors, but some did question whether or not the public would have access to use these rooms and services.

There were also discussions on what kind of landscaping would surround the building.

County staff hadn't fully addressed the issue of public access, but will be exploring the option at the supervisors' request.

"It sounds like there isn't a clear picture of how this building will be used," Supervisor Jim Spering said.

Supervisor John Silva said the rooms should be rented out and the revenue should be used for maintaining the building so that the county doesn't have to dip into the general fund.

The news of the conversion won't make some Solano County historians happy. A group, known as the Solano County Historical Society, had petitioned the board to turn the building into a museum. The group submitted a business plan at the board's request, but had issues raising the millions of dollars it needed.

Betty Davis, who represents what is now known as the Solano History Exploration Center, said even though its desired location isn't available, the group isn't giving up its dream for a museum.

"We're still out there," Davis said. "It takes time, it takes money, it takes people and effort."

Supervisor John Vasquez said there may be a way to incorporate historical items in the new building by setting up display cases or other exhibits.

Danny Bernardini can be reached at

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