Jackson County hosts informational session on resource centerJACKSON — Citizens of Jackson County asked questions, expressed opinions and viewed floor plans Wednesday at an informational open house for the proposed new Jackson County Resource Center.
JACKSON — Citizens of Jackson County asked questions, expressed opinions and viewed floor plans Wednesday at an informational open house for the proposed new Jackson County Resource Center.
“I think we ought to keep (the existing resource center) and put it to use,” said Koke Kolander of Jackson, who added the building would need to be made wheelchair accessible. “Not just for sentimental reasons, but (because) there’s a lot of room here.”
All five county commissioners, Jackson County Coordinator Janice Fransen, Wold architect Joel Dunning, construction manager Pete Filippi and many county staff members helped answer people’s questions —and sometimes criticism and praise — about the proposed project.
“There may be some people that still question the need (for a new building),” said Larry Clymer of Alpha. “We need to move Human Services into a bigger space. The conditions they work in are atrocious. … I literally saw people working in offices that wouldn’t have made a decent closet.”
A county-wide vote on issuing $5.2 million in bonds for the proposed new resource center will be May 25.
“It’s scaled down; it’s more cost-efficient. Compared to remodeling (the old resource center), this is the way to go,” Clymer added. “Building new will be, in the long run, the cheapest.”
The new 34,700-square-foot building would house Jackson County’s Human Services, Family Services Network, Veterans Services, Emergency Management, Driver’s License, Planning and Environmental Services, Information Systems and Building Maintenance departments, as well as the Cottonwood-Jackson Community Health Services. Currently those offices are located in different buildings — the Human Services building and the Jackson County Resource Center, which is composed of two former schools built in 1938 and 1962.
“Nobody’s got any money anyway, and it’s going to cost more money to build that new one,” said Jackson resident Hazel Jackson. “They should start using (the existing) building and making it better.”
The building’s total cost will be $7,034,409, and although the county is mandated by law to include language stating voters would be voting for a tax increase by voting for the referendum, county officials say the project will not increase people’s property taxes.
Instead, the $7 million building will be paid for with $2 million in existing county reserves designated for capital projects, $63,000 a year in existing annual wind production tax revenue, an additional $250,000 per year in annual wind revenue from the Elm Creek II project, the $190,000 in additional taxes Jackson County will receive when the JOBZ program ends in 2016, and $46,000 per year from the federal government for human services cost recovery. In addition, the county estimates that $50,000 will be saved annually on utility and operations costs by consolidating services in a single, more energy-efficient building.
Previous building proposals had been much larger and costlier, some with a price tag of up to $11 million.
Like Kolander, some Jackson County residents believe the old resource center, or perhaps simply part of it, should be remodeled rather than torn down.
“They’re not going to be able to build a new building like this (one) was built,” said Bob Oostenink of Jackson, who said the existing resource center’s foundations and walls were built well, though its interiors would need some work.
Alyce Resch of Jackson agreed.
“I’m really not in favor of destroying this building,” Resch said. “I think it has a lot of potential.”
Cost estimates to rehabilitate the existing building have ranged from slightly below the cost of building new all the way up to $9.7 million or more and would have to include making the building wheelchair accessible, replacing heating, ventilation and electrical systems, adding elevators and modifying the building in accordance with workplace safety regulations.
The existing building has a significant amount of wasted space, but would require extensive remodeling in order to make it useful for the county’s purposes.
“We spent close to two years looking at all the options, remodeling some or all (of the existing building), renovating, or building new. … We came up with a build new option,” said Sandy Phillips of Jackson, who was on one of several building committees discussing options for the resource center. “The second building committee and the last one all looked at the facts, and all came up with: building new is the best use of county dollars.”
By putting Human Services in the same building as other county offices, county officials hope to create a more energy-efficient, visitor-friendly and accessible building, with increased privacy for clients — a major concern especially for Human Services.
“I followed this project all the way through,” said Dave Hargan of Jackson, who has participated in some of the committees discussing what to do about the county’s space needs. “We opposed it to start with, with the scope of the project and the size of it… I feel this is a more proper size, and the funding (is there), so I’m supporting it all the way.”