Government center construction moving ahead with or without merger

Published 11:11 am Friday, June 22, 2012

Commissioners are facing many unanswered questions about the Southeast Minnesota Human Services merger, but they all say the remodel of the Mower County Government Center will move ahead as planned.

“We’re definitely going to go ahead with the remodel,” Commissioner Jerry Reinartz said.

The county is in the early stages of remodeling vacant space in the Government Center so Health and Human Services can move out of rented space at Oak Park Mall.

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The potential 12-county merger project could see counties sharing services and merging departments.

However, commissioner say the remodeled space at the Government Center won’t be vacant if the merger goes through.

“You’re going to have some sort of presence,” Commissioner Mike Ankeny said.

There has been talk of using call centers and technology if counties were to merge, but the commissioners say there will still be staff in the county.

“You can’t have people driving 40 miles for services,” Ankeny said.

While Gabrielson assured the remodel of the old jail and courtrooms will continue, he said it’s not as certain how that space will look. He said the space will be designed to be flexible with mostly cubicles.

“We need to have the flexibility to adjust as time goes on, otherwise we’re wasting taxpayer dollars,” Gabrielson said.

County Coordinator Craig Oscarson estimated the entire Government Center and Law Enforcement Center remodel project at around $6 million, but a more precise total will come after architect Paul R. Johnson completes his design for the project.