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Kandiyohi County Board tours ongoing remodeling projects

The Kandiyohi County Commissioners take a tour Tuesday of the remodeling project that’s underway at the county’s downtown Willmar office building. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

WILLMAR –– The Kandiyohi County Commissioners toured two remodeling projects underway in two county buildings that should help employees work more efficiently and help customers receive better services.

After the board’s first meeting of 2014 on Tuesday, the commissioners took a look at work that is underway at the county’s downtown Willmar office building, where the space is being reconfigured to bring all departments onto one floor.

The licensing bureau has already been moved to a new spot in the building, which helped the staff implement new processing procedures that have speeded up services. Now reconstruction is underway on the other side of the building, where the auditor/treasurer and assessor departments are currently housed.

Those departments have been slid to one end of the building while the rest of the floor undergoes construction behind temporary plastic walls.

When the work is done this spring, the auditor/treasurer will have a new office with space for absentee and — potentially — early voting.

The new layout will create office space so that the records, zoning and environmental services departments can move from the basement of the building to the main floor.

The design will create an information center where customers can get basic questions answered before being referred to the appropriate department.

County Administrator Larry Kleindl said having the departments together will make it easier for the public to get information and make transactions.

It could also mean the county may once again be able provide passport processing services. Because of restrictions by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the county’s current department structure, the county has been unable to process passports since 2011.

Space is reserved in the building for passport service, but Kleindl said the county first needs approval from the federal government.

Once the county offices are moved upstairs, the county could rent the lower floor of the building to other entities, said Kleindl.

Meanwhile, the county commissioners also toured an area undergoing remodeling in the Health and Human Services building.

In that project, walls are being removed in a section of the family services area to make room for at least 10 additional employees that will be needed to process the new MnChoices program.

Starting this year, counties are responsible for providing the assessments of any clients who receive services in their county, including elderly and people with disabilities, at group homes, assisted living facilities or corporate foster care homes.

In the past, the home county of those individuals conducted the assessments even if the clients were living in facilities outside the home county.

Because Kandiyohi County has a high number of facilities and out-of-county clients, it needs to hire staff to meet the new requirements.

Besides meeting the challenge of housing those new staff members, the county must also oversee the assessments and services of the clients in a new web-based system.

The state will reimburse the county for 100 percent of the cost of the additional employees, said Kleindl.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750