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JLG chosen for new social services building

JLG Architects of Dickinson has been chosen to oversee the construction of a new county social services building.

The decision was made at Tuesday's regular meeting of the Stark County Commissioners.

Rather than expand on or renovate the existing building at 12th Street West, commissioners have decided on a new building to be located near CHI St. Alexius Health.

"Our thoughts, as a commission, is basically a building, probably purchasing 2 to 3 acres by the hospital," Commissioner Russ Hoff said.

The new county building would also bring in the North Dakota State University Extension and Sunshine Youth Bureau offices, both currently located at 1340 Villard St.

"Rather than owning two older buildings, we'd have one building and that way it would be hopefully less upkeep," Hoff said.

Conversations on what to do about the growing needs of the county's social services offices have long been ongoing.

"For the last 10 to 12 years, we've been talking about doing something, adding on or putting it in a new location with a new building," Hoff said.

With a new building decided on and an architect chosen, JLG will begin the process of design, site selection and construction planning.

The project would cost roughly $6 million, Hoff said, with most of the funds available through capital expenditures, which increases monthly.

"It's going to take a full year until it's basically going to be off the ground," he said.

A new building is badly needed, Hoff emphasized.

"It's not necessarily a want, it's a need," he said. "They're full. We have spaces like closet areas turned into office areas."

Commissioner Ken Zander echoed the sentiment at Tuesday's meeting, describing the new building as "badly needed" and "many years overdue."

"I'm the senior guy on this commission," he said, "and we've been talking about this since I became a commissioner."

In other business:

Sherri Adams, Southwest District Health Unit executive officer, spoke with commissioners Tuesday about next year's budget needs.

A mill increase was not needed for 2018, remaining at 3.36, and will likely remain the same for 2019.

"We did increase a little bit last year, and as promised I tried to maintain a level budget this year," Adams said.

SWDH receives funds from eight counties its serves: Adams, Billings, Bowman, Dunn, Golden Valley, Hettinger, Slope and Stark. Those funds total $1.52 million.

From Stark County, SWDH last year received $818,164.

"We had projected to hold even," Adams said. "Hopefully, we won't have any big challenges coming forward."

The amount could change based on property values, but the amount of mills being asked will likely stay the same.

"We are allowed up to five mills, so we're still in that pretty good range," Adams said. "Even if it goes up to 3.8, we're still in pretty good shape."

Among challenges faced by SWDH are increasing insurance costs, as high as 10 to 15 percent, Adams said, and the state Legislature decreasing aid.

"When they decrease the state aid, that obviously trickles down to us needing more help from the counties," she said. "All of us local health units will be fighting that legislation."

Zander applauded SWDH's stewardship and management, saying, "We appreciate that fact that you're looking out for the taxpayers' money."