Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Nov. 22, 1999

Some McLeod County offices may be headed for Hutchinson

By Gail Lipe

The extra space at the new household hazardous waste (HHW) facility in Hutchinson appears to be filling up with county satellite offices.

Directors from McLeod County Public Health, McLeod County Social Services and the McLeod Treatment Program (MTP) met with the transitions committee last Wednesday to discuss the occupancy of the new HHW building.

Each organization discussed its needs and what remodeling would be necessary.

When asked how much more money it would take to complete the remodeling of the office space, and who would be paying for it, Ed Homan, solid waste director, said it would be determined after all the needs of each tenant were gathered.

The 29,542-square-foot facility was purchased from ADC Solitra in August for $835,000 with solid waste abatement funds collected by McLeod County from the landfill as mandated by the state. An estimated $455,000 will be needed to remodel the warehouse area for the HHW and materials recovery facility (MRF).

According to state law, the revenue shall be used only for landfill abatement purposes or costs incurred to close or clean up a landfill or for purposes of mitigating or compensating for local risks, costs and other adverse effects of facilities.

Commissioner Mel Dose approached the McLeod County Board of Commissioners at its meeting yesterday, Nov. 16, with the recommendation to get an opinion from the attorney general.

"I am convinced that if the primary purpose for the building is reduction or mitigation of solid waste, it is a proper purpose for the use of the money," said Mike Junge, McLeod County attorney.

Dose asked if the taxpayers are going to fund the part of the building that is not being used for HHW.

County Board Chairman Sheldon Nies said he agreed with Junge that if the primary purpose of the facility is for HHW then the solid waste abatement money can be used.

Junge said he has the power to ask for an opinion from the attorney general, but he does not feel it is necessary on this issue.

But the 9,234 square feet of office space at the new (HHW) building is more than the McLeod County Solid Waste Department can use.

"This meeting was to gather information relative to the use of the building," said Homan of the directors' meeting last week.

But Homan had to field questions from Glencoe residents and area reporters.

One question was about the proposed tenants of the building not being public information. It was brought up that McLeod County Board Chairman Sheldon Nies said previously that there were no plans to move county offices into the building.

Comment was made that it seemed like everything was already planned out.

Homan said he felt it was necessary to bring together the directors from groups who fit his perception for the building.

Nan Crary, McLeod County administrator, said the county has been in the process of identifying how the extra space will be used. "A lot of it happens invisibly," said Crary.

She said a plan is being developed to take to the full board.

Kathy Nowak, from public health, said nurses who come to Hutchinson now have to share a small break room. She said there is no confidential space to make phone calls.

Nowak also said the immunization clinics have been held in the diner at the county fairgrounds. Having a satellite office in the new HHW building would give the nurses a place to work between clients and would provide a consistent facility for the immunization clinics.

Homan said the new HHW building has created a facility that can put a lot of county satellite offices into one place.

Bob Hartelt, Glencoe resident, asked if rent is paid by the county to the fairgrounds for use of space in the extension offices.

Commissioner Grant Knutson said the county originally put $40,000 to $55,000 into building the extension offices with a contract to use the west side of the building. The space used by public health has been leased since 1997.

Nowak said the space in the new facility would be used daily by the visitation nurses.

Hartelt asked if public health would be paying rent to the solid waste department.

Crary responded by looking at it as taking money out of one pocket and putting it into another.

Jill Hewitt, director of MTP, said MTP will be covering the cost of remodeling its main office.

MTP is an independent organization that runs group homes for youth in McLeod County. It also works with the county to run its visitation exchange center (VEC).

MTP is requesting the use of two areas, one for its main offices and one for the VEC. The VEC will require two entrances with barriers and waiting areas, the visitation area and an office. The main office area needs a total of five offices and a waiting area.

Gary Sprynczynatyk, director of social services, said the agency has a lot of people in Hutchinson. There are social workers in the school, and meeting space is at a premium in the existing building in Glencoe.

"We have a lot of staff in this area that do not have meeting space or a confidential area," said Sprynczynatyk.

There was discussion about what each director felt they would need for office furniture and equipment. Phone lines were discussed, as well as fax machines, computer connections with offices in Glencoe and how scheduling will work for the conference rooms.

Homan will be hiring Pro-Maintenance to thoroughly clean the building for $1,000 to $1,500. The suggestion was made to add the building to the existing part-time custodial position to extend the hours for the continual janitorial services. It also was suggested to hire it out.

There was discussion about the lawn maintenance and snow removal. The recommendation was that the snow removal be hired out and the lawn maintenance be done by the park department or the juveniles who need to do community service work.

Homan will be contacting a locksmith to change the locks in the facility. Crary recommended he get quotes for standard keys and card keys. "The original key may look cheaper, but when you have a lost key it may cost more in the long run," said Crary.

The HHW remodeling is scheduled to be completed in June. Homan also may have an office in the building during the remodeling.

When Homan asked the directors when they would like to begin to use the facility, Nowak said the first immunization clinic in Hutchinson will be in February. She said the nurses could utilize space any time.

Hewitt said the central offices would need to give 30-day notice, and the VEC has a lease until May.

Sprynczynatyk said he does not have a specific date in mind. He said he is waiting for availability.

Homan said he would like each of the directors to submit a drawing to him of what they need for space and a furniture and equipment list.

There was discussion about other organizations utilizing space in the building, like the food shelf, Trailblazer Transit or probation. Homan asked if someone from these organizations also should be invited to the upcoming workshop.

Knutson said he did not think so because the space is taken up with the groups present. "We should try what we have."

Homan said he would compile the information gathered at the meeting, add a list of other possible tenants and present it to the full board at a workshop that is scheduled for Nov. 22 at 1 p.m. at the new HHW building.

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