New Jackson facility proposed

HERON LAKE -- A proposal that includes construction of a new 57,000-square-foot, three-story Jackson County/City of Jackson community services facility was presented Thursday night during a public information meeting at Heron Lake Community Center.

HERON LAKE -- A proposal that includes construction of a new 57,000-square-foot, three-story Jackson County/City of Jackson community services facility was presented Thursday night during a public information meeting at Heron Lake Community Center.

The meeting, attended by about 65 people, was the first of four that have been scheduled on the proposed project. Additional meetings are set for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Jackson Resource Center, 2 p.m. Thursday at Jackson Resource Center, and 7 p.m. Thursday at Lakefield Multi-Purpose Center.

The Jackson City/County Facilities Study Committee is hosting the meetings to share information on city and county facility and space needs, discuss its proposal and financing, and answer questions. Roger Ringkob, a Jackson County commissioner and study committee member, said the group considered a multitude of options before arriving at its current recommendation.

"Since August 2004, our 14-member committee has attended more than 30 meetings and spent several hours together," Ringkob said during welcoming remarks.

The new community services facility, which carries a preliminary cost estimate of $8.72 million, would be built on the current Jackson Resource Center site. The Resource Center would be razed.


The study committee anticipates a one-third city/two-thirds county split of the total cost. According to statistics provided by Jackson County Coordinator Janice Fransen, a $100,000 county residence not in the City of Jackson would see an estimated $26 annual net tax increase, while the same valued property in Jackson city limits would have an approximate annual net tax increase of $80.

County funding would come from a combination of bonds, general reserves and other sources, Fransen said. The city share could be generated from a mixture of library bonds, general reserves and dedicated trust fund reserves.

The city's one-third share of the proposed facility would include a library relocated from the current site along U.S. 71, a Senior Center moved from the site now immediately south of the library, and a portion of shared multi-purpose spaces. The county's two-thirds share would include space needed for county services -- including human services, community health, emergency management and family services -- as well as a portion of shared multi-purpose spaces.

Jackson Mayor Gary Willink explained his city and county have been working together to share services and "be smart with our money," while stressing that some type of proactive action needs to be taken.

"I've been in the Resource Center building enough times to know it needs a lot of things, so there's going to be no 'do-nothing,'" Willink said, adding that an estimated $1.6 million in necessary work would only be a "band aid" to address the most critical improvements for three to five years. "There's still going to be tax consequences for doing nothing."

Norm Glewwe of Wold Architects and Engineers, St. Paul, the selected architectural firm for the project, explained the study committee examined numerous alternatives, including renovating the entire Resource Center, demolishing one portion of the structure while preserving another, and building an entirely new two- or three-story facility. Observations made in making the proposal included facilities' ages, inflexible work spaces, poor public access and technology limitations.

Jackson County Veterans Services Officer Jeff Johnson, who also serves in Emergency Management and Drivers' License capacities, cited safety, privacy, accessibility and cramped space concerns, among others, as reasons for a new community services building.

"I am a taxpayer, too, and I was on the fence," Johnson said. "But this is needed ... and it would be that one-stop shop for services."


Fransen added later in the nearly 90-minute presentation that the committee is recommending not having a referendum vote on the proposal. If a voter-approved referendum is used to authorize debt for the facility, she said, the cost of the project is spread over fewer properties, resulting in the remaining properties being taxed for a larger share. State law exempts agricultural land (except for the house, garage and one acre), timber land and seasonal recreational properties from having to contribute toward debt authorized by a voter-approved referendum, Fransen detailed.

Following the informational meetings, the study committee will meet with the Jackson City Council and Jackson County Board of Commissioners in an April 25 work session to make a final recommendation on the planned project. The city council and county board would then take respective action on the project. If approved, a proposed timeline for design, construction and completion would follow.

Glewwe said that if the new facility was approved, it would likely be between 1½ to 2 years before the construction was completed.

Ryan McGaughey arrived in Worthington in April 2001 as sports editor of The Daily Globe, and first joined Forum Communications Co. upon his hiring as a sports reporter at The Dickinson (North Dakota) Press in November 1998. McGaughey became news editor in Worthington in November 2002 and editor in August 2006.
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