Dunn County Board to consider remodeling old health care center

By LeAnn R. Ralph

MENOMONIE — The Dunn County Board’s Ad Hoc Space Needs committee has decided to ask for funding to remodel the old health care center for county offices at the Dunn County Board’s May meeting.

 The space needs committee met March 28 to review preliminary plans for the estimated $11.5 million project with Bill Aubrey of Hoffman LLC, the architectural firm that designed the county’s new health care center currently under construction.

“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.

The second floor of the existing building would remain empty for the time being and would have the ceilings removed for fire protection and air flow purposes.

Moving the departments to one building would save the county an estimated $400,000 to $500,000 per year on office space the county rents now and on travel time for county employees to go back and forth between offices stretched out over several miles from the Government Center on Wilson Avenue to the highway department on state Highway 12/29.

Residents in the Dunn County Health Care Center will move to the new facility in July or August.

If the Dunn County Board approves the project, construction to remodel the old health care center building would start this fall.

Existing walls

Initially, the architects at Hoffman had considered using the existing walls in the old health care center but discovered that the space would not be as usable for county departments or that certain departments would end up with much more space than was actually needed.

The estimated remodeling cost for using the existing walls was $10.4 million and would have resulted in 59,808 square feet of finished space.

Hoffman LLC also considered gutting the interior of the healthcare center building and building completely new spaces for the county departments.

Demolishing the old walls and building new spaces would have cost an estimated $10.9 million and would have resulted in 52,114 square feet of finished space.

The current design under development is a blend of using the existing walls in some parts of the building and demolition and building new walls in other parts of the building.

The current design, dated March 20, 2013, would cost an estimated $11.5 million and would result in 68,915 square feet.

The total cost for all of the designs includes about $150,000 for construction management and $300,000 for financing costs, contingencies and moving expenses.

Interest rates

Steve Rasmussen of Boyceville, chair of the Dunn County Board, said the interest rates for remodeling the old health care center are expected to be even better than the interest rates received for building the new health care center.

“Borrowing is as good as it will get right now,” he said.

Bids for the new health care center came in at 15 percent less than the design estimate.

The exact cost of the remodeling project will not be determined until the county board accepts bids and approves issuing general obligation bonds, but at the May meeting, the ad hoc committee can ask the county board for approval to borrow up to a certain amount, Rasmussen noted.

Between now and the May county board meeting, financial consultants will be working on cost projections and tax levy impacts.

The Ad Hoc Space Needs committee also is planning to hold a workshop for county board members before the May meeting to present information on remodeling the old health care center.

The ad hoc committee unanimously approved a motion to ask the county board at the May meeting for funding to remodel the old health care center.