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City of St. Helena considers leasing Napa Valley College Upper Valley Campus

City of St. Helena considers leasing Napa Valley College Upper Valley Campus

Napa Valley College Upper Valley Campus, St. Helena

The entrance to the Napa Valley College Upper Valley Campus on College Avenue in St. Helena.

City officials are considering leasing the Napa Valley College Upper Valley Campus to serve as a temporary City Hall.

City Manager Mark Prestwich said he’s had preliminary talks with Napa Valley College President Ron Kraft about leasing the campus, located near the Pope Street Bridge, rather than putting more money into the old City Hall. The building was damaged Dec. 18 by a malfunctioning heater that almost started a fire.

Leasing the campus for three to five years, with an option to extend, would give the city time to design and build a permanent City Hall.

At a special City Council meeting to be held Thursday or Friday — it had not been scheduled as of Monday afternoon — councilmembers are expected to discuss whether to lease the campus or make further improvements to the City Hall building or the former CDF building on Railroad Avenue, which is serving as a temporary City Hall.

“The council needs to decide whether they want to spend more money repairing a building that has had two issues in the past 12 months that resulted in the displacement of city staff and impact on city operations,” Prestwich said, referring to the near-fire on Dec. 18 and a sewer backup that closed City Hall for three weeks last February.

City Hall, built in 1955, is widely agreed to be at the end of its life, and the council is appointing a task force to evaluate funding options for a new building.

Making the old City Hall habitable, even temporarily, would require a new HVAC unit, estimated at $8,500, some interior patching, and a new main fuse to replace the one that blew out when air scrubbers were deployed to clear the building of smoke after the Dec. 18 incident.

With some city staff on vacation during the holidays, the city has been able to get away with using only the southern part of the former CDF building. Making the north side of the building suitable for returning staff would require a new HVAC unit ($8,500), new carpeting, duct cleaning, and dry rot repairs. Due to the presence of asbestos under the existing carpet, the new carpet would have to be laid on top of the old one.

Prestwich said he considers City Hall and the CDF building “temporary buildings that will eventually be replaced.”

Moving into the Upper Valley Campus would be relatively easy. The council could approve a lease on Jan. 14, the NVC Board of Trustees could follow suit on Jan. 16, and city staff could move in during early February, Prestwich said.

The college is using the kitchen building and its associated classroom, but the rest of the campus is “on hiatus” this spring with no plans to have staff present, Prestwich said.

Kraft confirmed there was a “preliminary conversation with the city.”

“Our programming and class schedule has been tailed back over the past four semesters, and we’d been considering some options for leasing space to the city for some time,” Kraft said Monday. “At this moment, I have to secure more understanding and intention from the city, present their ideas to my Board in January and go from there.”

Prestwich, Mayor Geoff Ellsworth and Vice Mayor Paul Dohring participated in a conference call with Kraft on Friday morning and toured the campus that afternoon along with an IT professional and a Public Works engineer.

“It appears to be a fairly easy move-in,” Prestwich said, adding that the space could accommodate the displaced workers plus Public Works and Parks & Recreation staff who were already working on Railroad Avenue.

Prestwich didn’t share any numbers, but he said the cost of leasing the campus would be about half what church officials had been asking when the city investigated leasing the former St. Helena Catholic School.

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You can reach Jesse Duarte at 967-6803 or


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