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Work has started on plans to move Dunn County offices to Community Services Building

By LeAnn R. Ralph

MENOMONIE  —  The work has started on plans to move Dunn County offices located in the Government Center building on Wilson Avenue to the Community Services Building on Highway 12/29.

“The project is moving ahead at a good pace,” said Paul Miller, county manager, at the Dunn County Board’s October 17 meeting.

The county has hired a construction manager and also has hired the architectural firm of CBS Squared, Miller said.

Both companies have local experience in Chippewa County, Barron County and St. Croix County, and good references were received for both firms, he said.

The next step will be a space needs study to figure out what the needs are of the departments currently housed in the Government Center and then translate those needs to the spaces in the Community Services Building, Miller said.

The Dunn County Board, on a vote of 27 in favor and one against, approved moving out of the Government Center at the July 25 meeting.

According to information Miller provided to the county board in July, keeping county offices in the Government Center would require $3.8 million in repairs for upgrading the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), for replacing the elevator to make it Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant and for replacing the roof.

Finishing off the space available for county offices in the Community Services Building — the former Dunn County Health Care Center — was reported at the July meeting to cost $3.7 million.

The space needs study will determine which departments or divisions have the most foot traffic and would be better off on the ground floor as opposed to upstairs, Miller said at the October meeting.

The next step will involve doing a preliminary layout and to obtain input from the department managers, he said.

Before the plan is finalized, it will be presented to all of the affected employees, “on the notion that we don’t know where someone will have a good idea that has not occurred to everybody else or observed a problem with a layout that no one else has noted, or if nothing else, to keep everybody who is going to be affected by this change informed of what’s being planned,” Miller said.

“Our intent is to have the plan in pretty much complete format by January 1,” he said.

Dunn County plans to sell the Government Center building on Wilson Avenue.

“Preliminary work has begun on that as well by reaching out to appraisers,” Miller said.

The county has received three quotes from three commercial appraisers, “so we will  know the actual value of the building so we know what to be looking for in terms of an actual asking price for the sale,” he said.

The sale of the building will account for the “lion’s share” of the cost of relocation, Miller said.

“I want to keep the board informed,” he said.

At the July meeting, it was reported to the county board that the cost of custodial services and utilities for the additional office space in the Community Services Building is expected to be $87,000 per year, but the current cost of utilities, maintenance and custodial services in the Government Center is $274,000 per year, representing a savings of $187,000.

The City of Menomonie offices occupy the third floor of the Government Center, and the city pays $125,000 per year in rent.

The savings on utilities and custodial services at the Community Services Building combined with the loss of revenue from the City of Menomonie is still expected to result in a net gain of $62,000.

“I think it’s poor business to move out of one building, and what you can sell that building for is what it costs you to move into another building. That seems goofy to me,” said Larry Bjork, county board supervisor, later on at the October 17 meeting during a discussion of the 2019 budget.

The cost of relocation is $1.4 million, Miller said.

The cost of repairs to the Government Center is an estimated $3.5 million, so it is less expensive to move out, he said.

The cost for remodeling and relocating to the Community Services Building is not going to exceed $1.4 million? Bjork asked.

“Correct,” Miller replied.

Bjork expressed some confusion since the estimated cost of remodeling the Community Services Building had been reported to the county board in July to be over $3 million.

“I thought it was $3.5 million all together,” Larry Bjork said.

During the discussion of the 2019 budget, Keith Strey, chief financial officer for Dunn County, said the 2019 budget contained alternative funding of just short of $6 million in borrowing.

“The majority of that, over half of that, is for the Community Services Building remodeling. That is a long-term project,” Strey said. 

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