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HHS relocation hits bumps along decision's road

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news New Richmond, 54017
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The road to relocating St. Croix County's Health and Human Services staff while the current building is demolished appears a little less smooth or direct following the board of supervisors meeting May 7.

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Administrator Pat Thompson pointed out snags in negotiations with the federal government in a lease at the agricultural service center building in Baldwin and the fact only one proposal was returned for an 18,000-square-foot space in New Richmond.

The situation caused Thompson to offer up the possibility of holding off the move and maybe going back to the drawing board in terms of re-bidding the project.

The board may have to make a decision between an expensive leasing proposal and constructing a building, Thompson said.

"The board may have to take a look at if it means staying there (HHS building) another year, with some safety improvements, rather than make a costly decision," Thompson said.

Vacating the HHS building and relocating the staff is estimated to cost $600,000 to $1.5 million based on a three-year lease for an 18,000- to 20,000-square-foot space.

The administrator said the federal government has been unresponsive in lease negotiations with the building in Baldwin. An initial review of the other property, the old County Market building in New Richmond, represents an expensive proposition. "The main problem is the cost of build out," Thompson said.

Supervisor Buck Malick offered up the suggestion of "starting over," and issuing a new request for proposals in a hope to get more than one response.

Thompson said delaying the move is a possibility and he may have to "eat a little crow" since he had initially led the charge to move out of the building sooner rather than later.

So far, the county has paid out only $1,400 on the project, Thompson said. The relocation plan involves using current space owned by county at the Government Center.

On another topic, Thompson extended kudos for exceptional performances by a number of departments during the three-week Aaron Schaffhausen murder trial in April and events leading up to it.

"I wanted to extend a formal appreciation for efforts at the Schaffhausen trial and thanks on behalf of the board to staff in numerous departments who worked on the case since the crime was committed last summer through the trial in April," he said.

A resolution to establish a county community justice collaborating council ran into opposition from some board members. The council would include representatives of various departments in the criminal justice system to look over policies and consider ways to streamline the system.

Supervisor Tim Hood said the proposal, "seemed to be building another bureaucracy."

Supervisor Rich Ottino called it, "just another level of government when we have glaring security problems."

The resolution passed by a 10-5 margin. Hood, Fred Yoerg, Malick, Chris Kilber and Ottino voted no; Tom Hawksford, Fred Horne, Brian Hurtgen and Bill Peavy were absent.

Following the vote, Malick said, "We have found it necessary to create a permanent committee just to get people together."

For the complete story, see this week's New Richmond News.

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