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County Board Chairman Roger Larson prepares to cut a ceremonial ribbon at the entrance of the new St. Croix County Services Center in New Richmond on Tuesday, July 1. The new facility houses the Aging and Disability Resource Center, Behavioral Health, Children Services, Economic Support, Public Health and Veterans Services. (Photo by Micheal Foley)

St. Croix County Services Center now open

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St. Croix County Services Center now open
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The new St. Croix County Services Center formally opened in New Richmond on the morning of Tuesday, July 1, with a ceremony that included a flag-raising, a ribbon-cutting and remarks from various officials.

The facility, which is a renovated former grocery store on the city’s south side, now houses the Aging and Disability Resource Center, Behavioral Health, Children Services, Economic Support, Public Health and Veterans Services. It replaces the St. Croix Health Center (1445 N. Fourth St.) on the city’s north side, though a portion of that facility will still house the county nursing home.

Among the state officials on hand for the July 1 ceremony were State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, State Rep. Dean Knudson and Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary Kitty Rhoades.

During the singing of the national anthem, veterans from New Richmond VFW Post 10818 and members of the St. Croix County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard solemnly raised the U.S. flag, the Wisconsin state flag and the POW/MIA flag as spectators watched from across the parking lot.

Fred Johnson, director of St. Croix County Health and Human Services, served as emcee for the ceremony, which also included remarks from Rhoades, Veterans Service Officer Merlin Blaisdell, County Administrator Pat Thompson, County Board Chairman Roger Larson and New Richmond City Council President Jane Hansen, who also works as a county employee at the new facility.

Thompson’s speech summed up how the new facility came to be.

“What it boiled down to was a commitment,” Thompson said. “It was a commitment by our County Board of Supervisors, former board members and present board members, to providing services to our most vulnerable population.”

Thompson said it was the County Board’s commitment back in 2010 to vacate the Health Center facility and search for a new space. He also mentioned the importance of ensuring the new facility was in the New Richmond community.

“One of the important criteria was to keep our commitment to the City of New Richmond,” Thompson said. “It was important that we try to acquire space or a facility in the beautiful City of New Richmond as a partner with St. Croix County. That was a criteria of mine as we met with the staff and looked at different options for space. We thought it was important to try to stay here in town, and we were able to do that.”

Thompson kept his commitment theme going during his remarks by mentioning how the new facility fulfills commitments to the county’s service clients and its employees.

“When you’re able to get through the facility, you’re going to notice the layout of the facility is unique,” Thompson said. “Most of the staff-client interaction is going to take place in the front of the facility. The back of the facility is more of a secure environment for our staff.”

During her remarks, Hansen echoed a portion of Thompson’s sentiment.

“On behalf of the city, I’d like to welcome St. Croix County Services Center to the south end of town, no longer on the hill,” Hansen said. “It’s exciting to see the flags rise. It will be an icon for the south end here, and we’ll know that the county has a commitment to having a presence in all cities across St. Croix County, which I think is a marvelous goal. It’s energizing to see the investment in the community. Health and Human Services is an asset to our community, and with Grace Place coming in this fall, New Richmond can be proud that we are a community that accepts all people as we are. It’s a place for everybody.”

Larson used his brief time at the mic to recognize key members of the Hoffman team who worked closely with county staff to design the facility and complete the renovation.

Rhoades, who was representing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, told the crowd that western Wisconsin remains an important and quickly growing part of the state instead of “Winnesota.”

“It’s also significant to note that with our growth comes the need for us to be able to expand our services and to acknowledge that the demographics are changing. There are needs that we tend to not totally recognize, and as like the rest of the state, we’re aging. A lot more people are going to need a lot more services.”

A group including each of the speakers, Harsdorf, Knudson and three members of the New Richmond City Council crowded in front of the building’s main entrance to pose for photos while Larson snipped a yellow ribbon with an oversized pair of scissors to formally open the facility.

Visitors were able to tour the areas of the facility open to the public at the front of the building. Full building tours will take place during the county’s open house reception scheduled for 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 15.

Micheal Foley
Micheal Foley worked at RiverTown Multimedia from July 2013 to June 2015 as editor at the New Richmond News. 
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