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By LeAnn R. Ralph
HUDSON — The St. Croix County Board has allocated the remaining $7.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds (ARPA) to the Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) Fund .
The initial cost estimate for the government center project from The Samuels Group is $14 million over the budgeted amount of $80 million, said Ken Witt, county administrator, at the St. Croix County Board’s August 2 meeting.
The estimated cost for the project to expand the government center and remodel the existing building is more than the county borrowed for the project, he said.
Items were removed from the project to reduce the amount, but at $86 million, the project estimate is more than the $80 million that was borrowed, Witt said.
This is still a cost estimate, he emphasized.
In November, the first bid package will be sent out, and in February, the last bid package will be sent out, Witt said.
The actual cost of the government center project, whether it is above or below the estimate, will be known by the end of February, he said.
St. Croix County received the second installment in May of the $17.5 million in ARPA money allocated to the county, Witt said.
The county board has previously allocated $10 million of the ARPA money, leaving $7.5 million, he said.
Witt recommended allocating the remaining $7.5 million for the Capital Improvement Project Fund.
Funding the CIP with cash instead of borrowing money for projects has the biggest tax savings for county residents because it avoids the cost of issuing bonds and it avoids the cost of interest, he said.
Putting the $7.5 million in the CIP fund will provide the taxpayers with the most fiscally prudent use of available funds, Witt said, noting that he will always recommend that the county board put any excess funds toward capital improvement projects.
The government center is a CIP project, so if the project does end up being $6 million over, there will be an immediate cushion, Witt said.
If the bids come in lower than the estimate for the government center project, the money will still be available for other capital improvement projects, he said.
One county board member asked if the money could be removed from the CIP fund, too.
The debt service fund is the only “black hole,” Witt said.
If money is put into the debt service fund, it cannot be taken out, but the county board can take money out of all other county funds and move it around, he said.
The CIP fund is a “two-way street,” Witt said.
The St. Croix County Board unanimously approved allocating the remaining $7.5 million for the Capital Improvement Projects Fund on a voice vote.
Information included on St. Croix County’s website indicates that for the sheriff’s department, the government center project will include a public lobby, training rooms, evidence labs, interview rooms, increased storage space and secure parking.
For judicial services, the project will include additional courtrooms, a children’s waiting area for Family Court, dedicated jury deliberation rooms and more space for the district attorney and victim witness offices.
For other government services, departments will have larger areas to accommodate more employees and will have more meeting and collaboration space, including “flex space” to provide health and human services at the government center.
According to information included in the St. Croix County Board’s August 2 meeting packet, here are the items that were removed from the government center project to bring the total down from $94 million to $86 million:
• Remove 9,265 square feet of second level structure for a reduction of $1.5 million.
• Reduce the scope of the courtroom portion of the project by $2.9 million.
• Eliminate the staff clinic for a reduction of $1.05 million.
• Remove the south entry elevator for a reduction of $225,000.
• Eliminate the south parking area for a reduction of $133,000.
• Eliminate the driveway to Vine Street for a reduction of $600,000.
• Move the jail administration for a reduction of $500,000.
• Eliminate document scanning for a reduction of $500,000.
• Reduce the Audio/Visual budget by $502,000.
• Eliminate the solar array for a reduction of $551,000.