DARLINGTON – After some debate over who would go into the Harriet Street building, the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors approved the purchase of the building at their Nov. 9 meeting, for a purchase price of $144,000.
Maintenance Director Tony Wiegel was able to negotiate the price down from $170,000 to $145,000. The seller offered to take $1,000 due to the county paying him $1,000 for the right of refusal earlier. The building was at one time owned by the county and housed Human Services but they county sold it in 1998 for $55,000.
Board supervisor Andy Schilling asked if the hospital were to move forward with building a new hospital, couldn’t the county use one of the buildings, i.e. the clinic space, to create office space since the Harriet Street building does not have a parking lot.
“It doesn’t make sense for them to have to walk a block for parking,” Schilling argued.
County board chairman Jack Sauer stated it would cost more to repurpose the clinic into offices then it would to purchase the building. He added that a new hospital building could also take 3-4 years to get built, if it was even approved.
“We are spending more on dump trucks than this,” Sauer said.
He stated that what the county did last year by combining the secretarial duties with UW-Extension and Land Conservation and Zoning, (a $60,000/year savings) three years of that savings could pay for the building.
“We have been through this all before when we purchased the County K building,” Sauer said. “I don’t think it is good to have UW-Extension and Land Conservation in a building that is not open to the public right now and knowing that the rent we are paying is going to go up.”
Supervisor Kriss Marion proposed an amendment be added to the resolution for buying the building. The resolution stated, “Therefore be it further resolved that the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors recommends that no action be taken to outfit, remodel, or move equipment or personnel to said building until a thorough Harriet/Main Street space planning analysis has been undertaken and a Harriet/Main Street facility plan published by the Lafayette County Building and Insurance Committee in consultation with shared services departments, (which are Finance, Human Resources, IT, and Maintenance), as well as those departments potentially effected by the move to the Harriet/Main Street facility.”
Sauer didn’t think the resolution needed that.
“At B&I, they have talked about every department that could potentially go over there. They will take everything into consideration without the amendment,” Sauer said.
He added that he has heard several complaints from the IT department about them being placed in that building when nothing has even been established. He stated that Tony Wiegel said they shouldn’t be out of the building with the servers in it, which made sense, so the chances of the IT department moving would be “slim to none”.
Supervisor Robert Laeser seconded Marion’s motion to add the amendment.
“That information about the IT is exactly the information that needs to be captured in an organized manner in B&I,” Marion said.
Supervisor Scott Pedley stated that he would not support the amendment and felt that Marion’s amendment was overstepping B&I’s ability to “be allowed to do due diligence.”
Pedley added that he “has faith in the committee’s process.” Larry Ludlum agreed with Pedley.
Marion wanted to ensure decisions on who gets moved be transparent and have an organized and written plan along with consulting with all departments involved.
Sauer stated that the committee wouldn’t do anything in secret or try and hide anything.
“I’ve done some digging on this and I really have the county’s best interest in mind. What I don’t like is our scatter shot approach and lack of explicit plan,” Marion said.
Sauer said it is hard to plan for space 10-20 years down the road.
“The committee is fully responsible and aware of what needs to be done. I don’t know who is trying to hide anything,” Sauer said.
Pedley mentioned that County Board Rule #4 says “all committees shall duly and fully consider the subject referred to it and report in writing the results of their deliberations to the open Board” and felt that rule was adequate enough.
“This proposed language is micromanaging a committee,” Pedley said.
“I have all respect for B&I and I’m not thinking that B&I will do something secretive. It is saying that the decisions where people will go will be made in the B&I meeting,” Marion said.
At the last B&I meeting, Marion stated members were joking about the last series of moves done where UW-Extension and Land Conservation and Zoning moved to the USDA building on Erving Johnson Drive.
Supervisor John Reichling stated they weren’t joking about it.
“We admitted we made a mistake by having them move so quickly and that is not going to happen again,” Reichling said.
Pedley suggested Marion give her proposed amendment to the chairman of the B&I committee to use as a guidance in their decision-making.
“I would dislike it if the board told the Finance Committee that ‘here are rules you are going to play by’,” Pedley said.
“There are 16 people on this board. You can attend the B&I meeting and talk to departments and department heads and see what their needs are,” Sauer said.
“That is exactly right. That is the point. What we can’t do is as individual supervisors be in side conversations about who goes where. This is about asking that these decisions be made in public at the B&I committee,” Marion said.
“They aren’t going to have any side conversations between two people. It will all be done in a public meeting,” Sauer argued.
“That seems to not always happen,” Marion retorted.
A voice vote was taken on the amendment, which failed 3-13 with Andy Schilling, Laeser and Marion for.
Bob Boyle brought up the issue with parking. Sauer said that those employees would most likely have to walk a block or so to get to the building. There are some on street parking spots as well.
Corporation Council Nathan Russell commented that his law firm occupied the building for seven years and had dealt with the parking issue as well.
Nancy Fisker asked why the board was taking action on the building at this time.
Sauer stated it has been discussed for about a year of trying to get UW-Extension and Land Conservation and Zoning out of the USDA building. The lease is now up at the end of the year.
Fisker asked if the USDA building was for sale. Sauer was unsure.
Russell stated that when he left the Harriet Street building they were offered to buy it for $275,000 so the $144,000 the county was purchasing it for was a significantly better price.
A voice vote was taken on the purchase of the building and it passed 12-4 with Schilling, Marion, Laeser and Fisker against.