Kandy Feist sits behind newly installed safety glass in the County Coordinator’s office, part of an upgrade for the safety of employees in the Government Center. -- Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com
Kandy Feist sits behind newly installed safety glass in the County Coordinator’s office, part of an upgrade for the safety of employees in the Government Center. -- Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

‘It’s just the way of the world’: County adding safety glass as a precaution in public windows

Published 10:27am Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Mower County will soon be taking steps to improve safety in the Government Center, even if it causes some inconvenience for customers.

As the county works to improve the cosmetic appearance of the Government Center, it will also add safety windows to all counters and offices, which will only be accessible by electronic employee keycards.

Though such safety windows are bit cumbersome to the public, County Coordinator Craig Oscarson said safety is the chief goal as precautions against shooters and violent individuals are now common after several incidents across Minnesota and the nation.

“The customer inconvenience to me is outweighed by employee safety,” Oscarson said.

Similar safety windows and keycard-accessible doors were included as a precaution at the Mower County Jail and Justice Center, which opened in 2010, and the remodeled health and human services offices on the Government Center’s second floor.

Most counties, cities and school districts are now taking such preventative measures to limit access in public buildings as a safeguard. Oscarson referenced school shootings, a hostage situation in Morrison County in 2008 and several other incidents as catalysts for the change.

“It’s just the way of the world,” he said. “It’s ugly.”

A safety window will eventually be added to the Mower County Public Works office at 1105 8th Ave. NE, which Oscarson said is currently too open under new safety practices.

The county is also making several cosmetic updates to the Government Center. Workers are removing old wallpaper to paint the main floor and lower level hallways, while replacing tiling in the lower level.

The county already pulled much of the wallpaper in the hallways on the main floor to get a better estimate for painting costs.

Along with the safety windows, several offices will get new carpet and paint before some departments move to new locations. Veteran services and emergency management will move from the northeast corner of the main floor to the old coordinator’s office, which is currently vacant. After the move, similar work will be done in veterans services’ current office and it will then become the new office for Mower County Extension, which is currently in the basement.

The work was included in the county’s five-year Capital Improvement plan for 2015 or 2016, but there’s enough money in the building budget to complete the work this year, according to Oscarson.

The changes come after a remodel to convert the old jail and courtrooms on the Government Center’s second floor to office space for the health and human services department, which previously leased space at Oak Park Mall.

The county isn’t hiring an architect or construction manager, as its self-administering many of the changes. Oscarson described the work as a “bunch of small potato projects.”

“It’s an easy internal project,” he said. “It’s just a little cumbersome in terms of time and moving people around.”

New paint, flooring and other upgrades will be made in the auditor-treasurer, recorder and assessor’s offices, but the work in those offices could be more complicated since the offices are staying in their current location and won’t ever be vacant. To minimize the effects on employees and the public, Oscarson said the work could be completed over a weekend.

While the total project cost isn’t known yet, but Oscarson said about $356,000 is budgeted in the building budget.

With the new electronic door locks, the county will update its low voltage wiring — which includes voice and data.


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