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Kandiyohi County, Minn., Extension programs relocate

The University of Minnesota Extension programs in Kandiyohi County have a new home.

Agriculture education, 4-H, Parents Forever classes, Master Gardeners and Community Nutrition Education are no longer in the county's downtown Willmar office building.

They moved this week to the second floor of the Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services Building on North Business Highway 71 in Willmar.

The transition began Monday when the furniture and filing cabinets were moved, followed by computers, copier and boxes of program materials.

"The rest of the week has been spent trying to find everything," joked Krista Lautschlager, the Agriculture 4-H Program coordinator, who was digging into boxes Friday and getting books organized on shelves.

Nancy Winter, a community nutrition educator, said the new space is like coming home. The county Extension programs were located in the Health and Human Services building before moving downtown several years ago.

Winter said the new space is "ideal" but there will be some adjustments to be made, especially for people who use the services.

"It's all positive," said Winter, emphasizing that the programs are not changing. "It's just a different location."

The Extension programs are sharing office space and office staff with Pact for Families Collaborative, which meshes with the county's philosophy to "integrate services and programs in the county," said County Administrator Larry Kleindl.

As Pact for Families, a family services and children's mental health collaborative, lost funding and downsized staff they wanted to reduce their office space and lease agreement with the county.

Kleindl said it's a "natural fit" for the Extension programs, which also works with families and children (including after school programs), to be close to Pact for Families, which also conducts after-school programs.

He said it also makes sense to put Extension in the same building the public health department and family services department and that over time they will "see things they can share and do together."

The Extension office and Pact for Families will also share clerical staff that will allow the 4-H program to operate five days a week. In the past that office was only four days a week.

Moving Extension out of the downtown county office building now frees up space for a potential redesign of services there. This week the Kandiyohi County Board got a look at what that could look like and are expected to make a decision in December on whether or not to move ahead with any changes.

Carolyn Lange

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

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