Yellow Medicine County Commissioners have taken action that may drastically change the physical layout in which the county provides services to constituents.
On Tuesday, commissioners unanimously approved a purchase agreement for the Fagen Engineering building located at 180 8th Ave. just off of main street Granite Falls. According YMC Administrator Ryan Krosch, the purchase would serve to alleviate the county of a long-running need of additional space.
Commissioners nearly pulled the trigger on an approximately $1.3 million courthouse expansion proposal developed over 2007 and 2008 that would have added the requisite space the county would need to adequately house county attorney, information technology and restorative justice offices. Ultimately though, the board would decide to put the breaks on the expenditure in response to a growing recession and reduction in state funding.
A special committee, made up of Krosch, Property and Public Services Director Janel Timm, County Attorney Keith Helgeson and Commissioners Ron Antony and Greg Renneke, was later formed to continue to explore options to address the space concerns. Krosch said the committee remained open to courthouse expansion options while also putting out feelers for potential off-site space. Eventually, an inquiry was made about the Fagen Engineering building.
Fagen Inc. Secretary-Treasurer Diane Fagen said that the company wasn't shopping the building, but when it became apparent that the engineering offices could be moved into the main office off of Highway 212 the company was happy to accommodate the county. Terms of the purchase agreement include a sale price of $450,000 for the approximately 8,000 sq. foot structure.
According to County Assessor Connie Erickson, Fagen Inc. purchased the building, the former YMC Bank, for $410,000 in December of 2008. A building permit filed with the City of Granite Falls listed subsequent renovations to the structure to run an estimated $100,000.
The purchase of the property by the county would remove it from the tax rolls. In 2012, public documents show a taxable value of $309,000 and $12,944 in taxes payable. Broken down the portion of those taxes that belongs to major tax recipients includes the city of Granite Falls at approximately $5,000; the county, $2,600; the state, $2,750 and the YME school district $800.
A YMC Gov't Center?
Krosch says that if the sale goes through the plan is to move all Finance and Administration and Property and Public Service offices over to the Fagen Engineering building, while the county attorney offices would be moved into the courthouse alongside Family Services, Law Enforcement and the court, which all work together with frequency.
Such changes would create a logical layout that, in addition to the courthouse, creates a separate government center where the public would go for services relating to land records, property assessment, taxation, elections, vital statistics and licenses other than drivers and motor vehicles.
According to Krosch, the government center model is nothing new and is used by a number of counties, including Redwood, which recently established their government center in a former grocery store building.
Page 2 of 2 - Beyond the purchase, the county would be faced with additional expense associated with the renovation of the engineering building and the courthouse. Krosch estimated that these cost might approach $250,000 to $350,000 and $100,000, respectfully.
At the courthouse, much of the expense would be associated with upgrades to safety precautions and facility updates, while at the engineering building one of the most costly requirements would be the installation of an elevator.
Krosch said that he expects the actual purchase of the Fagen Engineering building to occur by the end of November and to be totally funded with reserves. The move by county departments into their new locations would likely be complete by next spring.