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Renovation plans progress for Jackson health department

Renovation plans progress for Jackson health department

Plans are moving forward for an extensive renovation of the Jackson County Health Department building, with County Manager Don Adams hoping to have an architect contract ready for commissioners to approve at their May 7 meeting. 

A recently completed study from McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture showed that the job will cost between $5.8 and $6 million, depending on how commissioners choose to phase construction, with additional costs for services such as architecture and engineering fees, surveying, upfitting of temporary office space and costs for furniture and equipment. 

“The big unknown for us is the temporary space,” said County Manager Don Adams during the April 10 work session when the updated costs and plans were presented. “We’re relatively close to the $7 million that we had budgeted in regards to this project as a whole.”

The plans presented April 10 were the second version of the renovation concept that commissioners have seen. The architecture firm’s original presentation to commissioners was in January 2017, when the board was still deciding whether to renovate the existing building or build new. At that time, results showed that renovation would cost $4.7 to $5.7 million and that a new building would cost $5.6 million, plus land. Commissioners opted to move forward with renovation rather than pursuing new construction, but in September a majority of the board decided to have the architecture firm revise the concept so that the Permitting and Code Enforcement Department as well as the Planning Department could be housed in the renovated building.

That decision was driven by the board’s Republican majority — Commissioners Mickey Luker, Ron Mau and Charles Elders — which had been pushing to create a one-stop permitting center so that builders needing various approvals from the health, planning and permitting and code enforcement departments would no longer have to shuttle between so many locations in order to get their paperwork in order. The revised plans cost the county about $10,000 in addition to the $19,000 it paid for the original study. 

The revised plans are mostly the same where the first floor is concerned — except a two-story atrium is no longer in the plans — but the configuration on the second floor is much different. 

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The revised proposal includes office space for the planning department and the permitting and code enforcement department, both of which are currently housed in the Jackson County Administration Building. To fit those two departments into the building along with all the health department functions that must go there, the revised plan shows many environmental health and permitting and code enforcement employees working in cubicles rather than standalone offices. Instead, the new plans increase the number of conference rooms from five to six so that cubicle employees who need to meet with someone from outside the department can find space to do so. 

“We don’t have a lot of 10-people meetings,” said Permitting and Code Enforcement Director Tony Elders. “We have a lot of four-people meetings all day long. I think we wanted a lot of smaller conference spaces instead of one larger one.”

Leaders of the affected departments told commissioners they were satisfied with the plans and the process used to create them. 

“We have all been very included,” said Health Department Director Shelley Carraway. 

“It’s not perfect, but within the confines of that structure, that’s the best we can do,” added Tony Elders. 

Commissioners may approve an architectural contract at their May 7 meeting. Adams said the renovation project would likely go out to bid around Christmas or in January 2019, with construction starting that spring and lasting for about a year. 

“I’m comfortable with what’s presented,” McMahan said. “It seems like it’s very thoroughly vetted.”

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