06/30/09 — Jeffreys Building move is almost complete

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Jeffreys Building move is almost complete

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 30, 2009 1:46 PM

The county's human resources department this week is completing its move into renovated offices on the first floor of the Jeffreys Building, and the county already is beginning to look to its next projects -- renovation of the Sullivan Building (the old tax building) and former Masons department store property -- both of which could end up victims of the economy.

But even with the economic uncertainties, County Manager Lee Smith remains hopeful that some money can be found in the new budget to at least begin some preliminary design work on the Masons property.

It is a project he would like to see completed within three years to provide new and larger homes for Services on Aging and the Health Department. He also is looking at the move as a means of providing some enterprise-type services that could create revenue for the county.

"Services on Aging is in a very poor location, limited parking, limited space," he said.

"What I would like to do, even though I did not budget for this, we are going to look and see as we move through the year if we can move some things around, save money in other areas to get some preliminary design work for the William Street (Masons) facility for Services on Aging and Health Department. I do think we need to make some moves, particularly on Services on Aging."

The Department of Social Services operation is different than Services on Aging and Health Department, but it, too, will need to be looked at eventually, he said.

For example, the Health Department holds "very large" clinics and it is "very hard" to control them in that building, he said.

DSS and Health Department share space in the old hospital building on East Ash Street. Services on Aging is located on East Walnut Street.

Services on Aging would be the priority, then the Health Department, Smith said.

"We want to get estimates together and try to use money we have in the budget as best we can," he said. "We want to put time frames together. I'd like to see that project done within three years. Services on Aging is our fastest-growing area."

Smith said he has heard concerns from some senior citizens about crime in the William Street area.

However, an analysis of 911 calls does not bear that out, he said. Smith said it is a safe area and does not have a lot of walking traffic. Also, it is on a major GATEWAY bus route.

An added benefit to renovating the building and property would be cleaning up a major route into the city, he said.

The move also would provide an opportunity to look at possible new revenue-generating programs, he said. For example, the county has a number of group homes, but lacks adult day care.

"That (adult day care) could be developed into a mini-enterprise project for Services on Aging," he said. "Medicaid and Medicare will help in some areas for adult day care. We could incorporate some of the cost of the facility into that (revenue)."

The move will be needed to cope with health care changes, too, he said.

"Health care changes loom on the state and federal level and how involved is it going to be?" he said. "State and federal, sorry doesn't matter, what matters is what is going to happen here with our Health Department because I think we are going to play a part in it.

"Are we prepared? Not in the facility that we are in. So we are going to have do something. I am not making these comments because I want to spend money. I would hope we would not have to spend a dime, but that's not where I see where we are going because this is an area that is changing. We are going to have to spend some money, but I also see some revenue sources that may be available."

As for the Sullivan Building, the county still has a ways to go, he said.

"We are waiting to see what the economy does," Smith said. "We have got some moisture issues in that basement as far as water infiltration. We need to clean that up, and we need to replace the elevator.

"We will get into the second quarter before I make any move there, maybe getting some bids on renovations and elevator replacement. We are probably looking at a September time frame and maybe be ready for the fall to do something, then kind of go from there."

The move into the Jeffreys Building (the former Federal Building) began over the weekend of June 19 with the planning, inspections and environmental health departments. Human resources moved this week.

The environmental health, inspections and planning departments are located on the third floor. Emergency services, 911 and its general administration remain on the second floor

The renovated building will serve as a station for one of the county's 12-hour EMS units. The unit will be moved from Center Street. The building includes a day area for rescue personnel and a training facility.

The county paid for the $853,000 project with money that had been set aside in the budget over several years. Work began last September.

"The Jeffreys move is pretty much complete and we are wrapping it up now," Smith said. "We were within budget which was great. I don't think we really had any big snafus.

"I have gotten a couple of positive calls from contractors who said they really liked having inspections over there. They can pull in, run upstairs, get their stuff and come right back out. If you are pulling a trailer or whatever it was much more difficult (at the courthouse parking lot). Our whole plan was this kind of one-stop shopping. Get in fast. I mean these are the guys out there building the tax base. Let's get them in here and get them out. That really works."

Also, contractors like being able to park over at the Jeffreys Building, go just up the street to City Hall to handle planning and inspections, return to the county offices then leave, he said.

"They can get their business done over there," he said. "That works out really good. We talked about trying to work together better (city and county). That is one of the issues we talked about earlier -- our services are closer together. I mentioned to county commissioners at the last meeting about the city and county getting together, the two (governing) boards."

Smith said his staff and the staff of City Manager Joe Huffman are expected to meet within the next 30-45 days.

"We want to look at some things, how they are funded, the library to airport, then come up with some sort of plan to give to commissioners and council to look at," he said.

Smith said it might take a little getting used to having planning at the new site. However, because of the technology, phone systems, computer systems, maps system on line, the office could be anywhere, he said.

"I think with technology like it is and only getting better I think them being over there will work fine," he said.

The move has freed up roughly 3,000 square feet on the third floor of the county courthouse annex. Next week, the space will be cleaned and get a fresh coat of paint. Other changes will include new security locks on some doors.

The space will be divvied up between the district attorney and clerk of court's offices and judges, hence the need for new security.

The court offices have been squeezed for years and needed more space, Smith said.

The county's information technology department will move into the old law library.