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New Stark County Social Services building near complete and under cost

At $10.2 million dollars, the new Stark County Social Services building came in under contracted costs by nearly $3 million dollars. The building is scheduled to open on Dec. 20

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(Josiah C. Cuellar/ The Dickinson Press)
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As the Stark County commission considered solutions to meet the growing needs of social services in Stark County, they approved a massive $13 million dollar project to build a new Stark County Social Services building. The nearly completed building, a near-decade long plan realized, witnessed its first occupants move in on Thursday, Dec. 10. The building is expected to be the most used building in the county with remainder of the occupants expected to move into the building and begin operations on Dec. 20.

Rodney Cockeram, project manager with Scull Construction Service who built the building, and Stark County Commissioner Ken Zander provided a guided tour for media and newly elected commissioners Bernie Marsh and Neal Messer of the 32,000 square foot building on Thursday.

According to Zander, the final construction costs will come in under the project’s proposal by nearly $3 million with a final estimated price tag of $10.2 million. In addition to coming in under budget, the project will see $100,000 in owners contingency money returned to the county.

The new building seeks to address agency space needs for services offered by the North Dakota State University Extension Center, the Children's Advocacy Center of North Dakota Dickinson Office, the Sunrise Youth Bureau and Stark County Social Services, who operated out of a 40-year-old building that no longer met the agency's needs.

As one the county’s architecture giants, JLG Architects designed the building with feedback from Zander and Pete Kuntz and the prospective agencies the building would serve — who provided considerable input. Construction on the building, located on Fairway Street across the street from Sanford Health Dickinson Clinic, has already opened services for one of their tenants in the Sunrise Youth Bureau, who occupied the building on Thursday.

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Zander said the building will employ nearly 65 people from the various entities and that a strong focus on local entities being involved with the project was a priority for him and the commission from the onset. Among the local entities involved were Dickinson's Scull Construction who built the building and JLG Architects who designed it, in addition to TMI Systems Corporation which provided all the laminate casework, countertops and architectural woodwork products for the new building.

“We wanted to keep this local as much as possible,” Zander said. "Everything from maintenance to contracted services will be local, which is exactly what we wanted to do with this project."

Security was front and center in design plans and considerations, and Marsh and Messer said they were pleased with the additions that facilitated the security.

“Because of the nature of things some of these offices, especially social services, deal with, we wanted to ensure that the building was as secure as possible,” Zander said. “The social services wing of the building has secured entry with bullet resistant glass and more. It’s unfortunate that we have to consider these things, but what we have here is a building that is on par or better than any other county building maybe in the state.”

The four acres of land the building occupies was purchased by the county from CHI at a substantially reduced market value price, something that Zander said helped ensure that the project cost the taxpayers nothing.

"This is being done without the county assuming any debt," Zander said. "The funds are coming from our capital improvements account, 100% of which is oil royalty money accumulated over the many, many years and designated for capital improvements. That's one of the things that I'm personally most proud of is that we aren't bringing any financial burden to the taxpayers."

Zander put at ease any ideas that this project will affect property taxes saying, “Money from this project is not property tax money and will not affect taxes."

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