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Go-ahead given for Kandiyohi County, Minn., building proposal

WILLMAR — A plan to revamp the downtown Kandiyohi County office building as part of a multi-phase restructuring plan got the initial go-ahead Tuesday.

The Kandiyohi County Commissioners said they liked the “Plan E” that was developed with input from county staff to relocate departments, which will mean fewer physical and personnel borders between departments and increased customer service.

The goal is to create “one merged culture with exemplary service,” said County Administrator Larry Kleindl.

The large picture plan takes into account current technology and provides a format to accommodate future changes in technology and customer needs that could rely more on online service and less on face-to-face service, said Kleindl.

The plan would create a general public area in the center that should make it easier for customers seeking services, such as renewing driver’s licenses, paying taxes or recording land sales. The plan could also create a secure building if after-hours services are eventually offered at the Driver and Vehicle Services license bureau, or if early voting is allowed in Minnesota.

Commissioner Harlan Madsen said Stearns County has that kind of setup in its new building, where he recently watched customers move quickly from a central gathering point to different departments.

Madsen said he was impressed with how the system works there and said the “potential is just excellent” for incorporating that kind of customer service flow here.

Kleindl recommended accomplishing the plan in four separate phases, with the first phase moving the Driver and Vehicle Services license bureau to the side of the building where the University of Minnesota Extension Service had been located. The Extension office moved this fall to the PACT for Families office in the county’s Health and Human Services Building on the north side of Willmar.

The first phase also includes building new public restrooms close to the license bureau and updating the heating, air conditioning and ventilation system in the building.

Later phases including shifting the auditor/treasurer department from one side of the building to another, moving the recorder’s office from the basement to the main floor and moving and expanding the assessor’s office with adequate space to allow for the possibility of the county taking over the city of Willmar’s assessing duties if such a merger occurs in the future.

The last phase of moving environmental services from the lower level to the main floor may not be completed for a couple years, said Kleindl.

Phasing in the project would reduce costs and allow services to continue without interruption, he said.

The county will now work with architects to finalize details of the plan, get cost estimates and seek bids.

The project could be stopped at any time if costs are too high or it could be paused without advancing to the next phase, said Kleindl.

Purchasing new office furniture for the building will have to happen whether the remodeling project goes ahead or not.

The county is still using the furniture that came with the former bank building when it was purchased in 1982. The old desks and chairs are not ergonomically correct and do not fit computers and technology, he said.

 In other discussion Tuesday:

- The commissioners approved a contract with the Minnesota Department of Transportation for installation of intersection conflict warning signs that will be placed at the intersections of state Highway 23 and County Road 5 on the south edge of Willmar and County Road 1 between Priam and Raymond.

The two intersections were targeted by the state because of unsafe conditions, including curves and railroad crossings, and the dollar value of accidents that have occurred there.

The estimated $100,000 cost for purchasing and installing each sign will be paid by the state.

- A reception will be from 9 to 11 a.m. Dec. 21 at the Health and Human Services building to honor Commissioners Dennis Peterson and Richard Larson, who are retiring from the board.

Carolyn Lange

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

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