Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The old hospital has been chosen by the Stillwater County Commissioners to be the site of county office space.

Commissioners pick old hospital

$3.4 million remodel job to make new county office space

The decision has been made.
With the exception of the courts and law enforcement, Stillwater County offices will be calling the old hospital home.
The announcement was made Tuesday morning at the Stillwater County Commissioner’s regular agenda meeting. Two potential resolutions were read aloud – one that called for the building of a new facility on new ground and one that called for the remodeling of the old hospital and relocation of all county offices with the exception of the courts and law enforcement.
The commissioners then voted to approve the remodel of the old hospital, saying it was a project they could pay for now and they had taken into consideration the public and official’s comments on the matter.
The approximate $3.4 million cost will be paid through a combination of PILT funds, County Capital Improvement Fund, Metal Mines License Tax, and Oil and Natural Gas Production Tax, the commissioners said this week, although they expect that number will be lower considering the courts will not be part of the newly remodeled building.
The courts and law enforcement are being left where they currently are due in large part to the concerns they raised with having such offices in the middle of a residential area and right next door to the Columbus High School and Columbus Middle School. Additionally, the old hospital is not big enough to accommodate all the county offices.

REACTION
Stillwater County Attorney Nancy Rohde told the commissioners that she was glad they were making a decision on the matter but pointed out that when the public was asked for feedback on the matter in 2015 following three informational meetings at which four possible options were presented, citizens did not support using the old hospital in this way.
Maureen Davey and Commissioners Gerald Dell and Dennis Shupak responded that they all had been approached by citizens who wanted the old hospital used. Additionally, Davey said that when the question of possibly using the building for county office space was posed at a public hearing in 2011, there were no objections.
That 2011 hearing was not about county office space overcrowding, but rather about the decisions to pay off the hospital’s bonds so it could move forward with building a new facility.
County Treasurer Jerry Friend also commended the commissioners for “doing something” about what has been a growing problem of cramped county office space. However, Friend also said he can remember no discussions during the past two years of putting more money into the old hospital. Friend also said parking is going to be problematic – to which Davey responded the old hospital had more than 60 employees and “they all parked” in that location.
Justice of the Peace Lee Cornell, whose office will remain where it currently is at the courthouse, questioned the commissioners about ADA complaint issues in the current building.
“I like to take one step at a time,” said Davey, adding that justice court could use the city court building, which does have an elevator.

BACKSTORY
The county has outgrown the current courthouse, with some offices already off-site. Additionally, the aging building is not ADA compliant. Four alternatives were developed through two feasibility studies over the course of nearly three years at a cost of approximately $70,000.
Four alternatives were presented during three public meetings held at the beginning of 2015, ranging from $6 million to $17 million and are as follows:
•Alternate 1: Remodeling the old hospital and the first floor of the current courthouse: $6.37 million
•Alternate 2: Remodeling the current courthouse and construction of a new law & justice facility at the courthouse: $15.32 million
•Alternate 3: Remodeling the current courthouse and construction of a new law & justice facility on a new site: $17.17 million
•Alternate 4: Completely new county facilities on a new site: $17.54 million
A public hearing was held on May 7, 2015 and the written public comment period closed on May 19, 2015. As of the close of the public comment period, no letters had been filed in the Clerk & Recorder’s Office expressing support for Alternative 1, which is the only alternative that involved the old hospital. No one spoke in favor of using the old hospital at the public hearing.

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