County may move Health and Human Services downtown in early November

Published 10:49 am Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Health and Human Services is slated to leave its current location at Oak Park Mall and move back downtown to the Mower County Government Center the first weekend of November, as long as construction continues as planned.

At Tuesday’s county board meeting, officials said the offices at Oak Park Mall could close on Friday, Nov. 1, to begin moving over the weekend before opening Monday in the Government Center.

The county is remodeling the vacant spaces in the Government Center — mainly the old jail and court rooms on the second floor — to make room to move Health and Human Services from Oak Park Mall.

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The concurrent Law Enforcement Center remodel, funded jointly by the city and county, should also be completed by late October or early November.

The county is using reserves to fund the Government Center remodel and its portion of the LEC work. The city is jointly funding the LEC project.

The total project is estimated to cost $4.3 million.

Parts of the LEC, including the exercise room, locker room, patrol room and sheriff’s supervisor area are slated to be completed at some point in October.

Wetland area approved in county

The Joint No. 5 Ditch Board, which includes members of the county board, unanimously approved a plan for a wetland restoration project on more than 70 acres of land belonging to Ken Penkava and Dwight Ault.

Resource Specialist Justin Hanson said there will likely be water control structures placed on both properties, and water will be stored on the Ault property before it drains into the slowly into the ditch.

Hanson said the wetlands will provide an outlet for large water events, preventing water from heading downstream, which will benefit landowners downstream.

“It’s a win-win for the system,” Hanson said.

The cost of the project isn’t yet known, but it will be entirely funded through state and federal sources.

Foundation asks for continued support

Tim Penny, president and CEO of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation asked the county board for its continued financial support Tuesday.

Penny said about 8 percent of SMIF is funding by counties and cities in about a 20 county area, but he argued the counties get a substantial return on their investments in hundreds of thousands dollars returned to early childhood education programs and loans to startup businesses.

The county board did not take any action Tuesday, as it will discuss funding to such agencies during upcoming budget discussions.