Column: County board acted in taxpayers' interestsHERON LAKE — This letter is to explain the Jackson County Board’s decision to move forward with a phased approach for construction of a resource facility.
By: Dave Henkels, Jackson County Board of Commissioners, Worthington Daily Globe
HERON LAKE — This letter is to explain the Jackson County Board’s decision to move forward with a phased approach for construction of a resource facility.
The vote on May 25, 2010, was to allow the county to issue general obligation bonds to build a resource center. The vote failed and therefore the county is not bonding (borrowing). The board has researched its options and has made a decision to move forward with construction using only available designated capital improvement funds. Construction would take place in three phases over an estimated 10-year period. Phase one would begin now with minimal remodeling in the 1962 building to house departments while construction takes place. The 1938 building would be removed. A building of approximately 10,000 square feet would be constructed to house the human services department. Phase two and three would take place when future designated funds became available. The plans are to make use of the entire site on which the 1962 and 1938 buildings are located. Part of the last phase would include removing the 1962 building to allow for needed parking space for the entire Courthouse/Resource Center Complex.
This decision was made because research has shown it to be the most cost-effective solution for the taxpayers, while allowing for the least disruption of county services during the construction phases. Remodeling to new standards of the 1962 and 1938 buildings was also researched in our study.
The newly formed Jackson Preservation Alliance is pursuing a possible injunction against removal of the 1938 building. Their main goal is to preserve this building at all cost, even to the extent of asking the county to mothball the “38” building until a developer is found to preserve and make use of it. This would be at the county taxpayer’s expense.
Perhaps selling the 1938 building to the Jackson Preservation Alliance could be a solution to our problems. The City of Jackson could preserve its historic school building without the rest of the county residents having to help foot the bill. The county could then abandon the site altogether and look elsewhere for a location. The state and our own Association of Minnesota Counties, through its redesign efforts, have been asking counties to improve efficiency by combining programs. We could approach Windom to combine our Human Services and Community Health Departments and move those departments to Windom. We already share our Human Services Director position with them and have a combined Cottonwood/Jackson Community Health joint powers agreement in place. This would be the logical next step. These two departments alone comprise over 50 employees in Jackson County. Not having to house these employees would open up enough space to use the 1962 building for the balance of our needs. There would be a greatly reduced need for parking, also, since employees and clients would be going to Windom. The county could also save demolition costs on the 1938 building and allow Jackson to save their building. However, consideration must be given to the possible loss of over 50 employees in Jackson County. Is it worth the gain in county efficiency?
Another option could be to formally ask the city of Lakefield for a site proposal to house some of the county’s departments. For many people in Jackson County, a Lakefield location would greatly improve access to services. This would also keep employees with our county.
The voters have empowered its elected officials to make decisions. We will continue to make decisions that we believe are in the best interest of the citizens who live here.
An injunction stopping construction could very well end our last effort to utilize the site adjacent to the courthouse.
The board needs your support.
Dave Henkels represents District 5 on the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.