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County hires consultant to evaluate buildings, options

The St. Croix County Board's Finance Committee has hired a consultant to look at the county's buildings, identify their positive features and shortcomings, and explore options.

An ad hoc facilities planning committee asked for outside help in tackling its task but has no budget to pay for the assistance.

Short Elliot Hendrickson Inc. will be paid up to $30,000 for this study, which is expected to take four months and mesh with a workshop aimed at developing a "vision" for the county's nursing home in New Richmond.

"We need to do some sort of planning around the nursing home," said County Board Chairman Roger Rebholz. "We don't want to move forward without a plan."

The SEH study will be limited to county buildings in Hudson, New Richmond and Baldwin.

Engineers will review floor and site plans, tour the facilities, review earlier studies and interview up to five department heads or key community leaders. The SEH representative will also attend regular monthly meetings of the Building Facilities Long-Term Ad Hoc Committee for July through October, attend some of the two-day nursing home workshop late this month and meet monthly with Building Services Director Art Tobin.

The study will look at the Government Center in Hudson, the nursing home and Health and Human Services Department buildings in New Richmond and the Agriculture Services and Education Center building in Baldwin.

By the end of this first phase of work, SEH is expected to identify the good points and shortcomings of the buildings, distill the major findings of past studies and summarize the key issues, project how population growth patterns might affect future facility plans and discuss building options.

A cost analysis of any options would be left until the next phase of work.

SEH Senior Project Manager David Simons said his company can offer an independent perspective, summarize other studies and existing conditions and come back with options for county supervisors to consider.

He said the results of this "research and discovery" phase will be done in time to allow the County Board to fit any other planned expenses into its 2010 budget.