James Rufus Koren and Joe Nelson, Staff Writers
Posted: 11/24/2010 04:57:43 PM PST

Just last year, San Bernardino County leaders were seriously considering purchasing all or part of San Bernardino’s half-vacant Carousel Mall and using the land for a new county government center.

But that won’t be happening, at least not anytime soon. In April, county leaders told the mall’s main owners, Lynwood-based developer Placo San Bernardino LLC, that the county was no longer interested in the property, county spokesman David Wert said Tuesday.

County Administrative Officer Greg Devereaux said that when the Board of Supervisors was aggressively pursuing purchase of the mall property last year, it was using outdated estimates of the county’s space and staffing needs and overly rosy projections of the county’s finances.

“I would characterize it as the board wanted to take a strong look at it, and they were led to believe we needed the additional space,” Devereaux said. “They were also led to believe our financial condition was much better than it was.”

He said the county was looking at all options, from purchasing the entire chunk of mall property to just a portion of it to build a government center.

Supervisor Josie Gonzales said when Devereaux was hired – he took over as CAO in February – the board asked him to look into the viability of moving forward with the government center project.

Not long after, Devereaux said he made the board aware of the county’s dismal fiscal state: It had been operating on a $90 million deficit two years in a row, and dire predictions of staffing cuts and department consolidations became a reality.

Those cuts and consolidations mean the county doesn’t need more space and won’t for several years, Devereaux said.

The county’s decision was made after the county failed to negotiate a price with Placo San Bernardino LLC, Wert said.

County staff consulted with the Board of Supervisors, and the decision was ultimately made to scrap the project, which is now dead in the water, Wert said.

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