MORAGA — It's only a half-dozen staff members, but the town's plan to move them this fall from one town-owned building to another is meeting some full-throated resistance.
A handful of residents firmly opposed to the move have formed the Save the Hacienda Committee, and plan to ask the Town Council to hold a public hearing on the issue.
Preserving the Hacienda's more community-oriented uses is the key concern.
"I think that there's a number of people that would agree with us, and I suspect when we finally get this on the agenda, we'll have a lot of people down there supporting our position," said George Fisher, a Moraga resident and committee member.
The town announced last month the administrative and planning departments will move from the top floor of 329 Rheem Blvd. to the Hacienda de las Flores, a historic estate on Donald Drive that serves as an event and community center, as well as offices for other town departments.
The Police Department will remain on the ground floor of the Rheem building.
Town Manager Mike Segrest has encouraged Fisher and others to address the council Wednesday and request the issue be placed on a future agenda.
Fisher was a member of the Moraga Park and Recreation Authority when the town purchased the Hacienda in 1973, and he wants the town to hold off on moving until the public has the chance to address the council.
"The Hacienda was purchased "... to be a park and
Segrest said those are still the plans, but that the top floor of the Rheem building must be remodeled before they can be put into place.
"We have to vacate the upstairs to do the remodel," he said.
With no money immediately available to do the work, town officials say it's better in the meantime to have all staff members in the same place. Segrest said it could be three to five years before the Rheem building is ready for everyone to move in.
That will have a huge impact on fundraising efforts geared at preserving and promoting the Hacienda, said Judy Dinkle, president of the Hacienda Foundation.
"People won't donate to us if we can't use the space for five years," she said.
Town officials have said the move will only affect the top floor of the Hacienda, not the rooms downstairs.
The Rheem remodel includes $80,000 from the federal stimulus through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to install an elevator. Segrest said the town informed HUD of its temporary move, and was told the grant would not be affected.
HUD spokesman Larry Bush said earlier this week that buildings do not need to be public facilities to qualify for the grant, but could not be reached later for elaboration.
The town may lease the vacated offices to private businesses, but Segrest said the economic climate may make that difficult.
A handful of tenants currently lease some of the upstairs Rheem office space. They paid nearly $57,000 in rent last fiscal year, Finance Director Joan Streit said.