Hamilton County Public Health will have a new home in the near future. If all goes as planned and pending approval of some zoning provisions, the health agency will likely move into the former U.A.W. building located at 820 James St.
The Hamilton County board of supervisors met with the county board of health on Monday to review options for the agency.
"I don't think its any secret that we have been looking for sometime at other possible sites," said Dave Young, chairman of the board of supervisors. The supervisors had previously looked at housing the agency in the former Hamilton Hospital building as part of a multi-use arrangement. That was later determined not to be a feasible answer, Young said.
The Hamilton County board of supervisors have made an offer on the former U.A.W. hall on James Street. Contingent upon some zoning allowances, the building will be the new home of Hamilton County Public Health.
"The vast size and layout created a challenge," he said.
The board also looked at expanding the mental health building on Fairmeadow Drive to accommodate public health. The costs for additional land acquisition and construction proved to be prohibitive. New construction on the land south of the courthouse was considered, but the supervisors said that development and construction of that property could exceed $1.5 million.
Young said Steve Kehoe and Randy Youngdale, owners of the current property, have been good landlords.
"In recent years, they haven't increased the rent, but there are a lot of facility changes that need to be made, that we as a tenant, didn't think we could put in," he said. The building owners were aware that the supervisors were looking for alternate sites, according to Young.
When it was learned that the U.A.W. building was available, he said Skott and Anderson Architects, Mason City, agreed to prepare information looking at the costs associated with purchasing the present building and remodeling, compared to the costs associated with purchasing and remodeling the U.A.W. building.
"Shelby Kroona (public health administrator) drew up a floor plan showing what would fit in the U.A.W. frame and then we looked at what it would cost to do the same layout in the current space," Young said.
Using the highest estimates for asbestos abatement, remodeling, architects fees, plans and spec printing and contingencies - not considering the purchase price - the total estimated cost for the current space was $598,000. In the U.A.W. building, the highest estimated cost was $352,900 for the same work and floor plan. Young said by adding in the $75,000 purchase price, the cost for the U.A.W. hall was still lower than the anticipated remodeling costs in the current space.
Other concerns that were addressed included the issue of a lack of parking at the current location and where the agency would be located during a renovation if that route was chosen.
"If we picked the U.A.W. building, there is ample parking and public health could stay in the present building until remodeling was finished," said Supervisor Doug Bailey.
Young said the board of health unanimously agreed with proceeding with the purchase of the U.A.W. facility.
"Again, parking, safety, access were a huge part of that," he said. The property would also allow for possible future expansion, if needed.
The supervisors voted to move ahead with the purchase and have made an offer on the property, which was accepted by U.A.W. officials. Bailey said if the sale proceeds, a zoning change may be necessary.
"It's an allowable use as an exception in that zone. So we have to go before the zoning board of adjustment to have the accepted use of a medical clinic approved," he said. The purchase will be contingent upon the zoning approval, Young said.
The project will be funded through county Local Option Sales and Service Tax monies.
"We will have cash to purchase the building," Young said. "We probably will finance the remodeling for a short time, which will be paid off with LOSST funds."
Young said he anticipated that once the zoning issue is approved, the architects would begin to prepare drawings, then move on to bid letting.
"We anticipate completion in about eight months from now," he said. "Until that time, public health has a place to be and we will fulfill all of our obligations with the current landlord."