Into the future: 10 stories to look for in 2013Published 10:52am Wednesday, January 2, 2013
7. Health and Human Services remodel and merger
Changes are ahead for Mower County Health and Human Services.
The county is progressing on the roughly $5.4 million project to remodel of the Government Center and Law Enforcement Center, and the project is expected to go out for bids early this year and, if all goes as planned, construction could begin this spring. The remodel is expected to take longer than a year.
The county is funding a remodel of the old jail and courthouse to make room for Health and Human Services to leave space rented at Oak Park Mall and join other county offices downtown.
The city and county are jointly funding the Law Enforcement Center remodel, which will cost more than $2 million — about $400,000 more than the $1.6 million the city and county originally set aside for the project.
More changes are in the works for Health and Human Services.
In September, the county board voted 5-0 to move ahead on the next phase of the Southeastern Minnesota Human Service Redesign, with four counties moving ahead — Mower, Dodge, Steele and Waseca — the project to merge and share services in human services is being done on a much smaller scale.
The original 12-county Southeastern Minnesota Human Services Redesign could have saved about $60.6 million over the next five years, according to consultant Accenture.
While savings will be considerably smaller on the four-county model, county officials are still hoping to gain efficiencies by merging.
The counties are early on in the merger, but more decisions are expected this year. After the mobilization phase, the counties will again have to vote to move into the cross-functional detailed design phase, where much of the heavy lifting and key decisions will be addressed.
It will take three to five years before the counties are fully merged.
That’s not the only group planning major infrastructure changes for 2013, however. The Mower County Humane Society looks to wrap up construction on a $600,000-plus animal shelter this spring, which will give MCHS volunteers a 9,000-square foot space to temporarily house wayward puppies and kitties. The project has been planned for years, but it wasn’t until a major donation push beginning in late 2010 and early 2011 that the humane society turned dreams into reality. Through hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations and cooperation with the city of Austin, MCHS found land on the east side of town and broke ground on the shelter last October.
In addition, the Paramount Theatre could make strides in its expansion efforts in 2013. Paramount officials hired architects and theater design consultants over the summer to start work on plans for an expansion more than two decades in the making. Miller Dunwiddie architects came to town in November to get feedback from Paramount supporters, staff, volunteers and community stakeholders before drawing up preliminary schematics to show the public what an expansion could look like. The architects are expected to submit a finalized proposal for the expansion soon.