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Consultant recommends replacing health building

It would be prudent for St. Croix County to replace the New Richmond building that houses its Health and Human Services Department rather than trying to repair it, advises a consultant.

Short Elliott Hendrickson project manager Dave Simons said the 1973 building is in poor shape, inefficient, expensive to operate, detracts from the appearance of the nursing home and stands in the way of expansion.

He estimated "the do nothing except what you have to option," which would include other repairs on the grounds, would cost $5.1 million while demolishing the HHS building, constructing a new one and making other campus repairs would cost $12.3 million.

Simons gave his second phase report of the county's facility planning study April 20, focusing on the buildings in New Richmond.

While the government center buildings in Hudson and the Ag Services and Education Center in Baldwin are in good shape, most building at the New Richmond campus are in fair to poor condition, said Simons.

He said the New Richmond buildings are the oldest and most neglected.

The 37-year-old HHS building, originally used as a health center and converted to office space, is in the worst shape, said Simons.

He displayed a series of photographs showing fogged windows, water-damaged walls, abandoned pipes that aren't disconnected, holes in old restroom walls, poorly lighted corridors, lack of ground-fault outlets, aged humidifiers and foundation damage.

It would cost $1.7 million to make critical and necessary repairs in the HHS building and nearly $4.7 million to fix everything that should be done, said Simons.

The building is also bigger than the department needs by about 18,000 sq. ft. and has high energy costs, said Simons. An earlier study estimated the county could save $123,000 a year by building a new, more efficient building.

Also, said Simons, the outdated building creates a bad impression for potential clients to the county's nursing home.

Removing the HHS building would be a good idea if the county plans to develop a "health campus," offering a continuum of services for elderly people, said Simons.

He said the outdated-looking building will detract from county attempts to market new services and sits in the prime spot for expanding the Health Center.

Simons estimated it will take up to two years to get permits, prepare designs and complete a new building

He agreed to prepare cost estimates for moving the Health and Human Services Department to Hudson.

Simons will now move ahead on his Phase 2 study, refocusing on all three campuses, looking at community space and developing a plan for better use of space.

Judy Wiff

Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.

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