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Committee's task: Develop plan for county buildings

Despite some trepidation that the group might erode the power of other committees, St. Croix County supervisors voted last week to create a long-term building planning committee.

The resolution carried on a vote of 18-12.

According to the resolution, building issues often require communication and coordination among committees.

In the past year, the county has been confronted with several building space and maintenance issues. Those include replacement of the Government Center heating system and roof, damage to Government Center exterior walls and the dilemma of how much to spend repairing water damage at the Health and Human Services building that many believe is obsolete.

The Finance Committee, which generally oversees construction and building repairs, asked the County Board to hand planning off to "a more representative group." Finance Committee members suggested the new committee be composed of the County Board chairman and the Administration Committee, which has members also serving on the county's major committees and is more geographically diverse.

The powers of the new committee are unclear, protested Supervisor Bill Cranmer, Hudson, who suggested a better definition of what the committee will do and what its powers will be.

"Where is our 20-year plan for buildings?" wondered Facilities Manager Art Tobin. He said it's hard to budget for repairs and improvements without a plan that looks 15-20 years into the future.

Finance Committee members didn't feel their committee reflects what other committees are doing, but those committees are represented by members of the Administration Committee, said Administrative Coordinator Chuck Whiting.

He said the new committee will try to work out a decision-making model.

"We ought to get the committee going," said Supervisor Buck Malick, town of Hudson, who argued against delay. "We've got some really serious building issues."

The county has been in a reactive position regarding building needs because it has no long-range plan, said Supervisor Sharon Norton-Bauman, Hudson, who is also a member of the Finance Committee. If the board postpones a vote, it just delays action, she said.

Cranmer's motion to postpone a vote was defeated by a vote of 17-13.

The new committee is to report to the board at least once during the 2010 budget process and prepare a full and final report by March 2010.