Removing building may be cost effective

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 22, 2002

The county has come up with a new plan to deal with the 1954 administrative building, which some citizens want demolished, calling it ugly and impractical.

The new idea is to construct a 10,000 square-foot structure on a squad garage to the east of the planned new judicial center.

Arch-itects estimate the cost for the addition would be around $1.2 million, County Administrator Ron Gabrielsen told the county board Tuesday.

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Under the judicial center scheme, the veteran service, environmental services and public health departments would move to freed-up space in the ’54 building after court-related offices move into the new facility.

But according to Gabrielsen, remodeling the building to accommodate those new offices would cost about $1.4 million.

Proponents for vacating the building has been suggesting adding an extra floor on the new judicial center, but that would cost significantly more than either alternative.

The new offices on the squad garage would still create the cost of demolishing the ’54 building. But Gabrielsen thinks the high maintenance costs for the old building may absorb any price differential unless it is very large amount.

“It is a wonderful plan,” said Albert Lea resident Tony Trow, who advocates the vacation. “The ’54 building would never be torn down if a million dollars were put into it (for renovation). The proposal is adding value to downtown Albert Lea.”

However, the new proposition also triggered some concerns.

Commissioner Dan Belshan, who has been critical about the new judicial center scheme as a whole, questioned the estimate for the remodeling and requested a second estimate.

Commissioner Dave Mullenbach proposed a workshop on June 3 where the architect will explain the new option. Commissioner Mark Behrends suggested a construction manager the county would select next week could verify the estimate.

The board will make a final decision on the fate of the ’54 building during a meeting scheduled on June 4.