The Elbow Lake Economic Development Authority would be willing to build a new Grant County Government Services building on the empty lot downtown, and lease it to Grant County to house Social Services, Public Health, Extension, Veterans Service Officer, and possibly a few more county offices, but not the Grant County Sheriff’s Department.
That was the proposal talked about last Tuesday in a meeting with the Grant County Commissioners, EDA Director Gene Wenstrom, Social Services Director Stacy Hennen, Grant County Sheriff Troy Langlie, Elbow Lake Mayor Deb Hengel, a representative from JLG Architects, and a representative from Krause Anderson Construction Managers.
Commissioner Troy Johnson, a member of the building committee, said the committee was asked last month to revisit space needs for Social Services and look for options other than the $8 million bond turned down by voters this fall. At around the same time, County Board Chair Keith Swanson was approached by Gene Wenstrom and asked that if the EDA built a Government Services Building would the county rent it from them?
That led to JLG being asked to come up with a scaled down version of the building they designed last year that would also house the Sheriff’s Department.
JLG went back to the early plans and cut out 2,000 square feet with the thought that 76 to 86 percent of the square footage would be for Social Services to receive the maximum reimbursement of 50 percent, per square foot from the federal government. The reimbursement would not be the same if the county owned the building. This EDA-owned building would be around 23,500 square feet at a cost of approximately $6.5 million.
“We would be willing to build the building,” said Gene Wenstrom.
Grant County Sheriff Troy Langlie asked, “Is the Sheriff’s Department not part of this? I am concerned.”
“There has been discussion on the future of the Sheriff’s Department. That is all I can say,” answered Swanson.
Langlie said a proposal to use the first two floors of the courthouse exclusively for the Sheriff’s Department “will not work.”
Langlie produced a list of reasons why expanding his department into the ground floor and first floor of the courthouse would be a bad idea. Mostly, there would not be enough room and the building would have to undergo many changes that are impossible given the historical nature of the courthouse.
Langlie went on to say that one of the reasons the original proposal to build for Social Services and the Sheriff’s Department together is that when the departments were housed together during the 2011 courthouse renovation, it went so well and was beneficial to both departments.
Swanson said the Sheriff’s Department would add too much cost in that tougher building safety regulations are required, such as bullet-proof glass.
Swanson asked his fellow commissioners if they were onboard with pursuing the concept of renting from the EDA as a way to move forward. Commissioners Bill LaValley, Troy Johnson, and Doyle Sperr said they were. Commissioner Pete Hoff was not at the meeting. But, the commissioners made it clear, something needs to be done to address the space issues for the Sheriff’s Department as well.
Swanson pressed the need for speed in resolving this issue, hoping construction can begin before the end of the construction season this summer. All the affected parties agreed to continue meeting, come up with a legal agreement as to which offices will occupy the building, and the relationship between the EDA and Grant County.
Tina Lindquist, Office of Emergency Management Director, asked for, and received permission to purchase three emergency defibrillator machines to be installed, one each, in the Public Health offices, Highway Department, and Social Services. She said there is a machine on the third floor of the courthouse, but it needs to be placed in a more public area. The defibrillators will cost $3,300 which includes training.
Dawn Johansen, director of the License Bureau, asked for, and received permission to ask for bids for an ATM machine for the courthouse. The machine would be for the convenience of people doing business in the courthouse.
Grant County Facilities Manager Jeff Merrick presented an ordinance for the control and management of Pine Ridge Park, east of Norcross. The ordinance is based on one from Douglas County managing their county parks and contains rules for camping, and recreational use of the park. Once a summary of the ordinance is published in the official paper for Grant County, the ordinance becomes law.