Commentary: County can live without a new HHS buildingI share Commissioner Ted Seifert’s concern about new building construction on the site of the old county jail and former police station (R-E, Feb. 8).
By: Michael D. Anderson, The Republican Eagle
I share Commissioner Ted Seifert’s concern about new building construction on the site of the old county jail and former police station (R-E, Feb. 8).
The existing buildings are a disappointment, both in terms of their obvious deterioration over a relatively short lifetime, and in their unsuitability for conversion to office space.
It is difficult if not impossible to convert a jail into a user-friendly public health facility and the police station has been a small, cramped facility since its construction.
It may have some utility as office space, but it is my understanding that it has longstanding structural issues including roof leakage — apparently not correctable. If the state of the masonry retaining wall is an indicator of its overall design, I am skeptical of efforts to make it useful.
The above notwithstanding, I question the wisdom of constructing a new 44,000-square-foot building on the site for the purpose of placing Social Services and Public Health in a single facility, especially when doing so necessitates abandoning the Citizen’s Building and subjecting it to “demolition by neglect” as Seifert’s so aptly puts it.
The Citizen’s Building is well constructed, well designed, architecturally and historically significant. It sits on a prominent site overlooking Central Park and contributes greatly to the beauty of Red Wing.
The building is highly adaptable and, by one estimate, would require only $2.5 million (a fraction of the cost of the proposed new building) to modernize, meet current building codes and serve citizens of Goodhue County for decades to come.
The value of Social Services and Public Health being co-located are overrated. The synergy of office co-location has been replaced by the synergy of intra office email and video conferencing. Persons who work in the same room exchange most information by email. Construction of individual offices has been replaced by modular work areas complimented by just a few closed door privacy spaces. A county that does not utilize video conferencing needs to do so.
This is not to say Social Services and Public Health do not deserve better than they have, but can we not look at what we as citizens already own or can purchase inexpensively before we build new?
I support the concept of a Goodhue County government “campus” but the very concept suggests we use existing buildings, especially architecturally and historically significant ones, and the residents of the campus be willing to walk just a bit if their physical presence is required.
The actual walking time from the front desk of Public Health to the front desk of the Citizen’s Building is 3 minutes and 30 seconds using sidewalks and taking no shortcuts.
Those locations mark the outer limits of the existing campus. It is hard to imagine absolute requirements for any two agencies to argue the case for new construction simply so they can share office space.
In addition, there is adaptable space in the old courtroom of the existing Goodhue County office building — and a rather elegant space at that. Surely one organization or the other could use it.
Furthermore, as many social workers and public health nurses as possible should be working from home or in the field and their onsite office space should be as minimal as function allows.
This is not a time to build out huge spaces. This is a time to look at a new model of service delivery and intra-office communication.