Citizens committee tours Resource Center at first meeting

JACKSON -- Members of the Resource Center Citizens Committee shared fond memories of their time as students while they toured Jackson County's Resource Center Tuesday.

JACKSON -- Members of the Resource Center Citizens Committee shared fond memories of their time as students while they toured Jackson County's Resource Center Tuesday.

The 30 people on the committee came from all over Jackson County, charged by the county's board of commissioners to deliberate on the fate of the aging Resource Center.

"I think everybody who has opinions on these things should tour the building," said committee member John Nauerth of Lakefield, adding "Coffee-shop talk doesn't do it."

Committee members spent about an hour touring the Resource Center facility, from the third floor with its water damage -- the result of an aging, leaking roof -- to the basement's heating system and electrical system. They were not allowed to get close to the electrical switchboard, which dates from 1938 and uses fuses rather than circuit breakers.

Not all the committee members went to school in the Resource Center's two buildings, built in 1938 and 1960, but several recalled attending classes in rooms now sealed off from the public.


The roof of the 1938 building would likely need to be replaced if the building is to see continued use. The 1960 roof is largely still intact. No part of the Resource Center has sprinklers, and both portions of the building are full of asbestos tiles and pipe insulation. Should the building undergo significant renovations, asbestos abatement would need to take place, increasing the cost.

The building has no bathrooms that meet handicapped-accessible guidelines, though there is a single large stall in a men's room on the first floor that a wheelchair could fit into. Some portions of the building currently used by the county cannot be reached without climbing at least one flight of stairs.

If the county decides to renovate the building, it would need to be brought up to current accessibility standards.

Electrical wiring would become a problem if more offices were moved to the Resource Center as it stands. Much of the building has external wiring casing added on for extra outlets in the areas used as offices, but according to County Coordinator Jan Fransen, the building's electrical system wouldn't sustain many additional offices.

"They've got a real problem here," Nauerth said. "They've got a good building, but it's not useable, and it's going to cost to retrofit it. But it may be too good to destroy. It's a real headache."

In December 2006, a Jackson City/County Facilities Study Committee recommended a new facility be built to replace the Resource Center, but some members of the community objected to the destruction of the Resource Center and the cost of a new building. As a result, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners formed the Citizens Committee to look at the issue again and present a solution to the board.

Committee member David Hussong of Okabena did not go to school in the Resource Center.

"I learned enough things I didn't quite notice about the building -- how much space and how much unusable space there is in it for what the county needs, and how unsafe the building is," Hussong said.


Only a small portion of the largely informational meeting was given to discussion. Toby Spanier and Mary Laeger-Hagemeister, both extension educators from outside the county, led the conversation. They established ground rules for future meetings and coordinated a brief question-and-answer session with county personnel.

"I think it went good," said Teresa Garber of Jackson, one of three women on the committee. "I went to school here. I'm very familiar with this place. I come here for the services, so it was no surprise to me."

Committee members were sent home with "homework" -- maps of the Resource Center, the 91-page Facility Analysis and the equally hefty Space Needs Analysis conducted by Wold Architects and Engineers.

The next meeting was set for 6:30 p.m. March 15 and will be in the same place.

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