by April Scheinoha
A remodeling project could be in the future of Pennington County. It’s just a matter of the building. At their meeting on Tuesday, March 22, the Pennington County commissioners learned about their options for housing all Human Services Department employees in one building. No decisions have been made yet.
Architects Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc. proposed two options to the county building committee – remodeling the third floor of the government center (former courthouse) or remodeling the current Social Services building. In any case, the proposed project would cost more than $1 million. If the county board proceeds with remodeling plans, it would use funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. Last year, the county received $2.74 million in ARPA funding.
Currently, the Child Support Division works on the second floor of the Government Center and other Human Services Department staff work in the PCHS building along Knight Avenue.
Option 1 was the remodeling of the third floor of the government center. “In terms of cost, this plan would be over a million dollars,” said Commissioner Darryl Tveitbakk, who is a member of the building committee.
Julie Sjostrand, Head of Human Resources, noted that the third floor redevelopment plans provide enough office space for 10 additional workstations as the department grows. It also features more natural light than what is currently offered at the department’s Knight Avenue location. As part of the Government Center’s plans, Meeting Room 2, located on the street side of the building, would be given a facelift to become a break room. It is believed that the Child Support Division staff would also move to the third floor of the building. Knight Avenue staff were concerned about parking outside of the government center, but Tveitbakk said there are some things the county could do regarding parking.
County Board Chairman Bruce Lawrence also sits on the Building Committee. “Personally, I like the idea of having all government departments in one place,” said Lawrence, adding that it wasn’t a critical issue for him.
In the past, commissioners have briefly discussed selling the Knight Avenue building if PCHS’ operations were consolidated at Government Center.
Option 2 would be to remodel the current PCHS building on Knight Avenue. It is believed that if this were the case, staff from the Child Support Division would move to this location. That option is expected to cost $1.2 million, according to Tveitbakk. He said the project would include some structural work, as well as work on the building’s HVAC and plumbing systems.
It is estimated that it would take nine months to rebuild the current PCHS building. Tveitbakk pointed out that there were questions about how staff would work in the building while the conversion was underway. Unlike the remodeling of the PCHS building, the remodeling of the government center would not disrupt the work of the PCHS staff.
Commissioners were encouraged to review the plans and provide comments to the building committee.