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Supervisors: DHS makes space requirement request

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012 10:19 a.m. CST

Union County supervisors continued to discuss where to move Department of Human Services (DHS) Monday, and the most important information revealed were the requests made by DHS staff — they want a minimum of 6,000 square feet of space and want a building separate from the Union County Courthouse.

According to Darren Thompson, executive officer for DHS in this area, DHS needs to be move out of their current location at the Union County Courthouse because DHS currently has the opportunity to hire two more employees in Union County, but cannot because they do not have enough space at their current location.

Additionally, Thompson said DHS staff doesn't have adequate conference/meeting room for employees and families to meet.

First option

Dennis Brown, county supervisor, told the board Monday with those space requests, the option he and Union County's Building and Grounds Director Paul Boden presented to the board last week will not work.

Brown and Boden's option is to keep DHS at the Union County Courthouse — a building the county already owns — by moving the assessor's office upstairs to the supervisor's board room. DHS would then acquire the office space left in the assessor's office.

And, the board of supervisor's would then move from their current location to the yellow brick building north of the Union County Law Enforcement Center where a portion of DHS staff currently resides.

But, Brown told the board Monday there is only a total of 6,400 square feet between the basement of the courthouse and the yellow brick building. Brown said, with the requests of DHS wanting 6,000 square feet, there is not enough room to meet all the wants of DHS and have enough space for the Union County Board of Supervisors, Veteran's Affairs and storage space.

"We didn't even start looking at cost," Brown said, "because there just isn't enough space within the walls of these two buildings."

Bob Brown, supervisor chairman, added DHS would much rather have a building separate from the courthouse for security reasons. So, when DHS staff is meeting with clients, they can lock their door if needed.

That wouldn't be an option under Brown and Boden's plan unless a new door was installed during the remodeling of the basement of the courthouse.

Other options

The second option presented during last week's board meeting was remodeling the current yellow brick and constructing a new addition to accommodate DHS.

Ron Riley, county supervisors, reported to the board Monday he attempted to contact Henningsen Construction of Atlantic three times last week, but nobody has called him back to set up a meeting or give an estimate on how much the addition would cost.

A third option presented last week was to build a brand new building across the street from where the old conservation house was recently demolished. Again, Riley reported Henningsen did not call him back to set up a meeting or give him a rough estimate.

A fourth option presented last week was to rent a 3,600 square-foot space inside the Nurses on Call building, located on Highway 34. Lois Monday, county supervisor, reported Monday with the 6,000 square foot of space DHS is wanting, that building is no longer an option.

"She (the landlord) can't stretch 3,600 square feet into 6,000," Monday said. "So, I think we can take that option off the table."

The fifth option is to move DHS from its current location at the Union County Courthouse to the former Iowa State Extension.

That option is expected to cost about $50,000 in remodeling. On top of that, the cost to rent the building has been set at $2,500 per month.

Don't rent

Bob Jansen, county supervisor, told the board Monday he's heard loud and clear from county taxpayers that they absolutely do not want to rent space for DHS. Monday and Riley both said they've heard the same sentiment from the taxpayers they talk to.

"The feedback I keep getting from people is use what you have," Jansen said. "If you need to expand then expand, but don't commit us to several years of rent. I've heard that eight or nine times in the last week."

Riley said, moving forward, there may come a time when county supervisors have to tell DHS they can't have everthing they want and the two sides will have to work together to reach a compromise regarding space and other requests.

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