County supervisors tour new Health & Human Services facility
From the outside, other than removing the iconic awning at the entrance of the former County Market grocery store on New Richmond’s south side, the building doesn’t seem to be changing a whole lot since construction crews began working in January to transform it into St. Croix County’s new Health and Human Services facility.
One look inside, however, shows otherwise.
Current members of the St. Croix County Board of Supervisors along with recently elected supervisors who have yet to assume their seats, got an extensive look at the facility on Friday, April 4, during an hour-long tour led by county management analyst Kristen Ziliak, county Facilities Director Jim Elsbury and site supervisor Steve Hallman of Hoffman Planning, Designing & Construction.
The St. Croix County Board of Supervisors voted to approve the $3 million purchase of the former County Market property in August. That $3 million price tag included $1.28 million for the building and $1.8 million for the remodeling and other improvements currently underway. The renovations are scheduled to be completed for employees to move into the facility early this summer.
To begin the tour, about a dozen visitors in white hard hats and safety glasses gathered just inside an entrance as County Administrator Patrick Thompson delivered a general briefing on the project.
“It’s almost 29,000 square-feet that’s being remodeled,” Thompson said. “It’ll house about 150 employees, and that includes a combination of enclosed offices, along with open space where employees will hotel or ROWE. We have some open space where employees can come in, plug in with their laptop and electronics. There will be a locker room in the back where employees can check in and workspaces available for employees who spend most of their time in the field, but need a place occasionally to check in.”
With a copy of floor plans in hand, the supervisors followed Hallman, Elsbury and Ziliak through the partially finished building. Unpainted walls revealed the shape of each office, hallway, storage area and open workspace, but the tour guides were needed throughout the hour-long tour to explain what each space was for and answer questions.
An area in the back of the building is being left unfinished during this project with plans of using it as a potential backup 911 center and satellite location for the Sheriff’s Office.
The tour through the dimly lit construction site concluded at the main entrance, which was filled with natural light from west-facing windows that were partially covered by the awning that was removed last month.
Among the supervisors touring the facility were New Richmond Mayor Fred Horne, who declined to run in this month’s election, and Daniel Hansen, the person who won the election to fill Horne’s seat.
Both were upbeat about the facility after the tour.
“I’m excited about it,” Horne said. “I think it saves the county a lot of tax dollars. It was in the long-range plans to build a new building down in Hudson for between $5 million and $6 million. To be able to buy this and be able to remodel it for $3 million is a huge savings for the county taxpayer. From the city perspective, keeping 150 jobs in New Richmond is huge for us.”
Horne said he was happy to give up the tax base on the vacant grocery store building to keep those jobs in the community.
“I’ve been watching the process, and I’m impressed,” Hansen said. “The quality of customer service is going to improve greatly. The experience for anybody who needs services here, especially people who are bringing young children, is going to be much easier — which equals better customer service, which equals a better interface with the county government.”