By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — Dunn County’s executive and facilities committees and the health and human services board have decided that the county is not yet ready to proceed with design development for remodeling the health care center.
Bill Aubrey of Hoffman LLC, the company that is designing the new health care center, spoke to the Dunn County representatives September 12 about the schematic design for remodeling the old health care center for county offices.
“People-centered” services, such as the Department of Human Services, Home Care Nursing, the Public Health Department, the Veterans’ Services Department, the Dunn County Transit Commission and the facilities department would be located on the lower level and first floor of the existing health care center, Aubrey said.
The second floor of the existing building would remain empty for the time being, he said.
Preliminary plans for the old health care center would include installing skylights to provide natural light in the core of the building. Remodeling work for the building also would include heating, electrical and plumbing, Aubrey said.
Remodeling the old health care center for use as county offices could be accomplished in one of two ways: gutting the interior and building new spaces or by maintaining the interior structures as much as possible.
Maintaining the interior spaces would cost less but would also result in a loss of space efficiency, Aubrey told the committee members.
For example, Home Health Care currently has 1,456 square feet of space, would need 2,360 square feet of space in the remodeled health care center, but would get 3,485 square feet of space if the interior of the health care center were not remodeled, Aubrey said.
What it amounts to is that the county would spend more money to provide minimum space for county offices and that it would cost less to use the existing space, he said.
Several committee members noted that in the coming years, county offices might need more space, so giving them additional space now might not be a problem.
Steve Rasmussen, county board supervisor from Boyceville and chair of the Dunn County Board, wondered about the cost difference between a complete and a partial remodel.
Aubrey said he had not yet calculated the cost differences.
Sarah Kennedy, county board supervisor from Menomonie who recently retired from working at the Dunn County Health Center after 37 years, brought up the issue of mold and mildew in the building.
Kennedy said in certain areas there was “black ooze” and that she had known of people who had quit their employment at the health care center because of health problems they had attributed to mold.
Kennedy also said, however, that she did not know if the health problems had been officially determined to be caused by mold in the building.
Aubrey said he had seen no evidence of mold problems but that it would warrant additional investigation.
Sheila Stori, county board supervisor from Menomonie, said that if a mold problem exists at the health care center, the problem would have to be documented so that the public could be informed.
“We would need to know fairly soon. If mold is there, can it be controlled?” asked Joe Plouff, county board supervisor from Menomonie.
Aubrey said he expected that mold would be found around the plumbing in the bathrooms, for example, but that the plumbing would be removed to use the building as office space, and removing the plumbing would remove the source of the mold.
Air quality has always been a problem at the Dunn County Health Care Center, Stori noted.
The corridors in the building act as return air vents, representing a design flaw, Rasmussen said.
Air exchange was not much of a consideration when the health care center was designed about 40 years ago, Aubrey said.
Committee members do not yet have enough information to make a decision on going ahead with design development, Rasmussen said.
The executive and facilities committees and the health and human services board meets next on October 2.
A full remodel of the existing Dunn County Health Care Center was initially estimated at around $11 million.