Chippewa County looking at former Montevideo, Minnesota, bank building for Family Services
The Chippewa County Board will issue requests for proposals asking for construction or engineering firms to analyze how a former bank building in downtown Montevideo could be repurposed for county use.
MONTEVIDEO — The Chippewa County Board of Commissioners is pursuing the possibility of remodeling the former MinnWest Bank building in downtown Montevideo as its first choice for new office space to house the Family Services Department.
At their meeting on Tuesday, the commissioners instructed County Auditor/Treasurer Michelle May to develop requests for proposals. The requests will ask for quotes from area construction and engineering firms willing to complete an analysis of how the building can be adapted for use by Family Services, and the expected costs to do so.
The commissioners said at the meeting that they have acquired a purchase agreement for the property. It gives the county a one-year time frame to decide whether or not to purchase the building.
The action comes one month after an offer by the Maynard Community Foundation to transfer the former MACCRAY East school building in the community to the county for $1. The Foundation is seeking state bond funds and is hopeful of raising $2 million in private donations to upgrade and remodel the building for a new use.
Maynard Mayor Rick Groothuis and Ron Fagen, a Maynard alum and founder of Fagen Engineering, told the commissioners on Jan. 17 that the building is in good shape and can be repurposed to meet the county’s need for Family Services. It could also house Prairie Five Community Action, they said.
Architect Richard Engan, of Engan Associates, estimates it would cost roughly $3.2 million to upgrade 14,000 square feet of the facility for use by Family Services. He estimates the costs for upgrading 20,000 square feet for Prairie Five Community Action at $4.5 million.
In discussions that followed the offer, the commissioners noted that they were pursuing the potential purchase of the former bank building. They cited concerns about moving the Family Services operations to Maynard and away from the county seat.
The relocation would raise a variety of logistical issues. Many Family Services clients lack their own transportation. And, Family Services staff and their clients work with Prairie Five for a variety of support services. There is also coordination involving the Sheriff’s Office, District Court and other entities located in Montevideo.
Lisa Schultz, Family Services director, provided the commissioners with a list of needs the department would have for moving into the former bank building in Montevideo. The two-story structure offers roughly 16,000 square feet of space. The department has 46 full-time employees. Her proposal includes 35 independent offices for staff members.
Commissioners Bill Pauling and Dave Nordaune said they have had informal discussions with J & D Construction and Fagen Engineering, respectively. Both companies expressed a willingness to provide an analysis and cost estimate on repurposing the bank building for county use, the commissioners said.
The Family Services Department and Prairie Five Community Action are both in need of new facilities. They currently co-occupy the original Chippewa County hospital building at 719 N. Seventh St. in Montevideo. A 2018 study by Klein McCarthy Architects recommended either completely remodeling or replacing the facility.
In discussions Tuesday, the commissioners said they believed the previous study identified costs in the range of $7 million or more for the county to remodel the facility for Family Services. Those costs are likely higher today, they noted.
Moving Family Services operations to the bank building is not the only option on the table. The commissioners also discussed the possibility of moving the operations to the courthouse building. That would require relocating some of the offices in the courthouse.
The commissioners also expressed interest in assisting Prairie Five in finding a new location in Montevideo. Schultz said Prairie Five Community Action currently has as many or more staff members in the Montevideo building as does Family Services.
Prairie Five, a private-public partnership, serves the five counties of Big Stone, Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, Swift and Yellow Medicine. Ted Nelson and Erick Hedman, representing Prairie Five, provided an outline of the Prairie Five nutrition program to the commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday. The nutrition program’s kitchen in Montevideo includes a staff of 10 producing 320 meals a day. Last year, the kitchen produced more than 115,000 meals.