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St. Croix gathers data on cost of building

A space study indicates St. Croix County's Health and Human Services building in New Richmond is bigger than needed and utility costs are over three times higher than they would be for a new building.

The study also shows it costs the county nearly $50,000 a year to have HHS staff based in New Richmond rather than Hudson, which hosts courts and other county services.

Following that report, the county's Finance Committee authorized $4,000 for Ayres Associates to prepare drawings for an addition to the Government Center in Hudson and a new Health and Human Services Department building that could be built anywhere in the county.

The results of the second study are expected later this summer.

"It can feel like we are heading toward a new building," admitted Administrative Coordinator Chuck Whiting. "But we still have a lot of steps to take before we get there."

The studies, said Whiting, are offshoots of two building space discussions: one about which department should be allowed to use empty rooms in the Government Center and one about the functionality of the HHS building.

The preliminary Ayres study reviewed Government Center floor plans and department needs including adding HHS offices to the Government Center, two more courtrooms, basement, a secure corridor in the existing basement and a secure elevator to move prisoners from the jail to the new courtrooms.

Those initial costs indicate such a project would cost $8.9 million to $10.9 million. Brown also estimated it would cost $4.9 million to remodel the existing HHS building.

Whiting said it would take "a couple years of discussion" before the county could make a decision.

The HHS question being considered is: "If you had to invest in a new building and run it, how would that compare to what we have now?" said Whiting.

The existing building is "fairly inefficient for its current function," said HHS Director Fred Johnson. "It's a building that the county had, and we moved in."

Read the full story in the June 28 print edition of the New Richmond News.