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Maintenance costs pile up

A local contractor estimates it would cost $255,000 to repair water damage to the foundation, windows and walls of St. Croix County's Health and Human Services building in New Richmond.

"On this building, delayed maintenance -- or no maintenance -- has come back to roost," Facilities Manager Art Tobin reported at last week's Finance Committee meeting.

He added, "My honest opinion (is) that building has served its life."

The 1974 building, which houses offices for the Department of Health and Human Services, is part of the St. Croix County Health Center complex.

"We have a huge, huge drainage problem up there right now. We are not getting water away from the building," said Tobin. He said roof drains have directed water down walls and along the foundation ever since the building was constructed.

Splash pads were placed on the ground, but those have been eroded and water has damaged brick walls, windows and the building's foundation and has permeated into a crawl space below part of the building. Photos also show knee-deep holes near splash pads.

Tobin said he contacted three contractors, but only Derrick Companies, New Richmond, offered a preliminary cost estimate.

That estimate says it would cost about $98,500 to excavate and repair the foundation; $72,000 for site drainage and catch basin repair; $43,900 to replace windows; $36,000 for wood stud-wall work and finishes; and $4,800 for new metal downspouts and splash blocks.

Finance Committee member Daryl Standafer wondered if the county can justify spending that kind of money on an old building. He asked if HHS staff could be moved into the nursing home building.

The nursing home was built in 1982 and is in good condition, said Tobin.

He said the lower level of the nursing home isn't being used and speculated that, with proper renovations, it would work for office space.

The nursing home is structurally sound and is set up like an office building, agreed HHS Director Fred Johnson.

"It's a nice building," he said. "It's just not how nursing homes are built today."

Last summer the Finance Committee received preliminary drawings and cost estimates for a three-level addition to the Government Center in Hudson.

Although there had been no decision and only limited discussion on the possibility of moving HHS to Hudson, the addition plans included space for the Health and Human Services Department, courts and storage.

A space needs study indicated the HHS building in New Richmond has about twice the space needed and is expensive to heat and cool. An analysis also showed the county could save nearly $50,000 a year by moving HHS staff from New Richmond to Hudson, which hosts courts and other county services.

While a lot of things aren't clear, one thing is, said Standafer. "We can't justify spending a quarter million dollars on this building."

"Give me 30 days and I'll give you a better estimate," promised Tobin.

The Finance Committee directed maintenance staff to replace downspouts and splash blocks.

While Derrick estimated that would cost $4,800, the committee declined to set a cost limit on the work the staff will do.