CHP shows off new Grass Valley facility |

CHP shows off new Grass Valley facility

Photo for The Union by John Hart
John Hart | The Union

California Highway Patrol Lt. Jeff Arnswald was showing off Grass Valley’s new $14 million, 16,800-square-foot facility Tuesday morning when he deliberately called attention to what looks like rusting rebar fencing around the building.

While some visitors have simply assumed the rustic look means the fencing is unfinished, Arnswald said the patina being acquired was a deliberate aesthetic decision. And the odd spacing of the bars is Morse code for “CHP.”

That quirky touch is just one of the most visible features of interest at the new headquarters, which also features solar panels on its parking facility and an elaborate filtration system to recycle the water used to wash patrol vehicles in its automotive bay.

Employees moved into the space on McCourtney Road, across from the fairgrounds, in mid-April, more than four years after the state began negotiating for a new site for the local headquarters.

The CHP office had been housed on Sutton Way since 1970, said Arnswald, calling the previous facility, which included several portables, “antiquated and outdated.”

The old facility, which was less than 2,000 square feet, simply wasn’t adequate to house the 25 uniformed officers and three staff members, he said.

“It was the Grass Valley mystery house,” Arnswald quipped, noting that officers had been shoehorned into many spaces originally intended only for storage.

The CHP began negotiating for the parcel in 2008 after the project was approved from the state’s budget the year before.

The facility was then put on hold for a few years after the state’s financial crisis put the brakes on plans to purchase the 4.23 acres.

The project finally was approved in 2010 as a lease with an assignable option on the property.

That way, a private developer would be responsible for the up-front costs, with the state leasing the headquarters at a rate of $95,000 per month.

The facility — which includes a main building that houses most of the operations, such as a public lobby, weapons storage and automotive bay, and a secondary building for storage and gun cleaning — was constructed by 3rd & F Street, a Sacramento developer. The site also features an emergency generator, a covered parking facility equipped with solar panels, a fuel island and a 120-foot-tall communication tower.

Because the state considers a CHP headquarters to be an essential services building, the Highway Patrol had to construct a facility to much higher standards than normal — 50 percent higher, in fact. It also had to meet ADA standards, Arnswald said.

“I know there’s been a lot of talk about Weaver,” he said of the long-vacant auto sales building site on Idaho-Maryland Road.

But, Arnswald said, that location was never submitted as a proposed site — and in any case, it would have cost too much to retrofit the structures.

“All options were considered, and that was not a viable option,” he said.

Leasing the current building is a win-win both for the state and the county, Arnswald explained.

“No general fund monies were used — there was no capital outlay,” he said. “The state did not spend a dime.”

Everything is leased, including most of the furniture, and the repairs, landscaping and maintenance are all covered by the 20-year lease.

The CHP pays only for electricity and natural gas at the site.

“Had the state purchased the facility, it would have paid no property taxes,” Arnswald added. “The private firm will pay those taxes for the length of the lease, so there is a revenue benefit to the county.”

Arnswald touted the fact that the Sacramento firm made an effort to hire all local contractors and vendors, and the maintenance is local, as well.

And he stressed that the building, while overbuilt to meet the state essential buildings standards, made use of cost-effective and durable materials, such as polished concrete for the flooring, concrete block walls and masonite wall panels.

“This building will not tumble,” Arnswald said, even in an 8.0 earthquake.

To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, e-mail or call 530-477-4229.

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