Commentary: New HHS building is not a priorityThe Public Health and Social Service departments merged in August 2010. The new Health and Human Service is currently located in the Citizens Building and the Government Center. It is the goal of many to relocate the H&HS staff to a single building.
By: Ted Seifert, The Republican Eagle
The Public Health and Social Service departments merged in August 2010. The new Health and Human Service is currently located in the Citizens Building and the Government Center. It is the goal of many to relocate the H&HS staff to a single building.
Some County Board members and administrators have been making plans for a new H&HS building adjacent to the Government Center. Their plan is to build a 44,000-square-foot, three-story building for estimate $8 million.
The Citizens Building was constructed in 1930 and is a jewel among Red Wing’s historical buildings. The specter of just leaving the building vacant and moving H&HS employees to a brand new building was politically unappealing to some commissioners. They halted new building design and planning until they could find a long-term use for the Citizens Building or find a buyer.
In August, the board issued a “Request for Proposal.” If the Citizens Building could be sold or leased, it would then appear reasonable to proceed with construction.
After six months, only one response surfaced, but it was pulled even before being presented to the County Board (R-E Jan. 9).
Undaunted, some commissioners and administrators are again advancing their plan for new construction based on a fantasy that in two years someone will be interested in the Citizens Building.
Short Elliott and Hendricks estimates it will cost $2.5 million for required code improvements. The current commercial value of a used 17,900-square-foot office building in Red Wing is $700,000.
A Wold study in 2009 found that the goal to house the H&HS Department in a single building would be achieved if the Government Center became the new Health and Human Service Building. The Citizens Building would be renovated and become the administrative office.
The comprehensive study of space requirements and available resources for all county operations has not been given due consideration. Within the central campus of the county operation, there is significant unused, underused and misused space.
Based on known facts and reasonable judgments, the relocation will consolidate all Health and Human Services operations in a single building, improve efficiency, service and save taxpayer dollars. This will give the county the efficiencies of an integrated HHS and not burden the taxpayers with an $8 million expense in these difficult economic times.
I found in the recent election campaign that overwhelmingly the citizens preferred remodeling the Citizens Building.
Setting priorities is the County Board’s responsibility. We do need a social safety net for those who truly need help and the county provides that. A remodeled HHS building would more than meet our needs and it would leave tax dollars for higher priorities.
Here are some high priority issues:
• The county is responsible to provide a judicial system that is fair, safe and efficient. The court must stay current with electronic innovation and court room design.
• The county has five township bridges that are weight restricted or closed.
• State Highway 52 is one of the deadliest roads in Goodhue County. The county’s share of a single overpass is $4 million to $6 million. We need at least five more overpasses to eliminate dangerous intersections and make Highway 52 a safer road.
Let’s prioritize the needs for our citizens, utilize the resources already provided and explore the options before we make big decisions on new construction.
The right decisions will have community support.
Ted Seifert of Red Wing represents District 5.