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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

Commission discusses future of vacant county buildings

Updated: Jul 30, 2023

MOUND CITY – In order to give Linn County Clerk David Lamb an idea of the costs that will be incurred the rest of this year and next on renovating county buildings, the commissioners held a work session with Public Works Director Shaun West on Monday, July 17.

The first remodeling project discussed was the new Pleasanton Senior Citizens building at Pleasanton. Commissioner Jim Johnson asked how much money had been spent so far on the building.

West said that the doors for closing off the front area from the storage area in back had been hung for less than $1,000. He said that since the cabin #8 project at the park was not in the near future he had used some of the materials for that building including some stud lumber.

Commissioner Jason Hightower said that he remembered that the initial estimate of remodeling the building was between $10,000 and $12,000.

The commissioners had previously approved the $1,080 cost of the completed guttering and approved the $1,535 bid for interior painting by Always Faithful.

West said that remaining items to be completed were remodeling the bathroom to be Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible, contracting some minor electrical and plumbing work, completing the flooring, and setting up the kitchen to be compliant with regulations.

West said that the triple-basin stainless steel sink from the old senior citizens building could be moved over to the new building. He said after the demolition was completed of the interior of the building by the STARS students, and the painting and flooring was out of the way, he would work with the person in charge of the center to decide what appliances would be moved over.

West told the commissioners that he had checked the building for roof leaks after the last rain and did not see any. West will make a spread sheet of the costs for the building.

Next, the commissioners discussed the report received from Blue Sky Green Earth, a mold mitigation company, about the old jail building. The report said that the inspection and testing revealed colonies of toxic mold in all rooms of the building.

The contract for $30,500 outlined the procedures for getting rid of the mold but did not guarantee the work for any period of time. West said that the relative cost was not out of line but his concern was what has to be done to keep the area dehumidified to keep the mold away.

Commission Chair Danny McCullough said that he was in favor of demolishing the building.

Hightower said that he would like to look into what it would take to keep the building mold-free.

Johnson said it would be hard to get a company that would guarantee that the mold would not come back.

The commissioners then discussed what offices might move into this building. West suggested that public works, economic development, planning and zoning, and public transportation departments might move into that building.

McCullough asked if the commission decided to keep the old jail, would the annex be torn down.

West said the annex could continue to be used for commission meetings and elections and election equipment.

McCullough once again said he was not in favor of keeping the old jail and would like to look into the cost of demolition. McCullough also brought up demolishing the old attorney’s building and the former district court building.

Hightower pointed out that the county would need more space and the commission should keep in mind the cost to build new buildings.

Johnson continued to express concern that they might have to revisit the mold mitigation again in a few years and that no company would guarantee that it would not return.

Hightower asked if the only offices to be moved to the former district court building would be the appraiser’s office and the mapping department.

West told the commissioners that his expertise was not construction and he would like to recommend hiring an engineer to do a study about moving the offices and reconfiguring the buildings.

West said he would bring county contractor Randy Page in with some ideas about the costs.

Information Technology Director Chris Martin provided several suggestions. He said that West’s idea of using an engineer to determine what office goes where and how to set up the building was a good option.

But he also reminded the commissioners about a study that was done several years ago when the commission was considering moving offices out of the courthouse into a government center. The study had the space and other requirements needed for the departments. He recommended that the commissioners look at that.

He also suggested to the commissioners that when they take down the tower at the old jail it might be good to coordinate that when the tower company was there to put up county communication towers.

At this point in the discussion, Treasurer Janet Kleweno, Register of Deeds Kristy Schmitz and Appraiser Kathy Bridges came into the meeting.

Both Kleweno and Schmitz said that they did not want to move out of the old courthouse.

Kleweno asked where the county was going to put the safes that she uses.

Schmitz said she did not want to move but thought the heating and air conditioning should be improved in the courthouse offices.

McCullough said that his concern was that the county ran window units in all of the offices. He was concerned about the electrical load and the extension cords.

West said that had been mentioned in several inspections by KCAMP, the county’s insurance company, as a correction that should be addressed.

Lamb said that he would love to get out of his office and into a new one because of the temperature issues; the office always being too hot or too cold. But he said that he needed to be near the treasurer’s office because they worked closely together.

Lamb said that his other big concern was that the election equipment was jammed into a small damp room in the basement of the courthouse, and it should be stored somewhere else.

Bridges said that it had been awhile since she had been involved in a meeting about moving to the old district court building. She said that she felt that it was a very awkward building to refit to offices because of the big courtroom in the middle.

Bridges told the commissioners that the impression that she had gotten before from the commissioners is that they did not want to spend a lot of money modifying the building into offices. She told them she had seven employees, several of whom needed to be located near each other so they could discuss appraisals and her office also needed a hearing room. In the future, she thought that she would probably need another staff member.

She also told them that there were file cabinets full of historical information that they needed to be kept for their department and right now those documents were stored in the old courtroom upstairs.

She said that if the old district court building was just slightly modified that it had a lot of usable space.

The commissioners and Bridges started looking at the floor plan of the district court building and determined that there would be an area where Lamb could store the election equipment.

Lamb told the commissioners that in the special building fund there was about $150,000. But there was also money in the contingency fund and windfall fund that could be used for renovation.

Hightower asked if the former county attorney’s office needed to be torn down.

West said that the attorney’s building was large enough for everyone in the annex.

West said he was in favor of picking a direction and getting people with expertise in, adding that he would have an engineer do a study.

Johnson said they needed to get going on the former judicial building for sure.

McCullough said he would be in favor of plan for the district court building.

“If I can give a plan to Randy I can get some numbers from him,” said West.

The commissioners agreed to start with the district court building and not make any decision on the jail for now. They will make a decision next week about the amount of money to be spent.

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