MERCED -- The Merced County Office of Education has some new quarters that will help it consolidate functions and ultimately save rent over the next few years.
Administrators of the Head Start program run by MCOE settled into 8,000 square feet of office space on Cooper Avenue at the end of December. Their wing will house 21 administrators and includes a training room.
Linda Kaercher, Head Start director, said moving from a rented office complex near G Street and Alpine Drive will save the program $35,000 to $40,000 in rent this year.
"We're very delighted to be in the new facility and excited to be saving the money," Kaercher said.
Paul Speed, MCOE director of facilities, said the Early Education Department could be housed at the Cooper Avenue complex no earlier than this December. A 9,400-square-foot conference center will house 390 people for meetings; it can be divided into four smaller meeting spaces.
Speed is not sure about the timing for relocation of the MCOE warehouse now at West 13th and M streets or moving information technology services to Cooper Avenue. These projects should take place later this year or during the next two years.
"It will be nice to get everybody together," Speed said. "This is working out nicely for the needs we have. It (the Cooper complex) will be very nice."
MCOE bought the five buildings, totaling 42,650 square feet, between 2100 and 2150 Cooper Ave. last August from Wells Fargo Bank for $871,724 after the bank foreclosed on the former owner, according to Merced real estate broker Steve Tinetti.
Tinetti believes the 3.3-acre office-warehouse complex was built in the early 1980s. It once included a satellite office for TV Guide production, the J.P. Norton electrical-plumbing supply firm, state offices, a place for Superior Court storage of legal files and furniture that belonged to the county's Workforce Investment Board. Most of the previous tenants have moved out.
"It was a very good purchase for them," Tinetti said.
MCOE will do well with the complex and ultimately will be able to reduce its rent payments by $250,000, Steve Gomes, county superintendent of schools, said.
Construction, much of it performed by MCOE's own maintenance crews, will be performed on a pay-as-you-go basis, Gomes said. He expects the conference center to be the next construction project undertaken at the complex.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.