County plans human services relocation

Programs at Lakeland, Fellman centers will move

Leader Photo by Greg Mellis Shawano County officials recently approved the purchase of this property at W7327 Anderson Ave. in the town of Wescott for $1.8 million for a new human services center.

Leader Photo by Greg Mellis This is a rear view of the property at W7327 Anderson Ave. that Shawano County recently purchased for $1.8 million for a new human services center.

Shawano County plans to relocate two of its human services centers to a newly purchased property just north of the city, though there are a few more steps to be taken before that can happen.

The Shawano County Board on Sept. 27 approved the purchase of the Dennison’s Retail Lumber property at W7327 Anderson Ave. in the town of Wescott for $1.8 million.

The vote was 25-1, with the no vote cast by Supervisor Deb Noffke. Supervisor Jon Zwirschitz was absent.

The county closed on the purchase on Sept. 29.
County Administrative Coordinator Brent Miller said the county needs to come up with building layout and site plans, which will also require approval from the state.

The county vote followed a presentation from project consultant Bill Devine of Devine Construction Inc. in Portage, who examined the property, as well as the space needs and operations at the Fellman Center, 607 E. Elizabeth St., and Lakeland Center, 504 Lakeland Road.

Devine told county officials that “operations at Lakeland have likely been compromised” and adjusted to fit existing building configurations that might not be the most productive for daily activities.

He also said privacy and security were “severely lacking” at both the Fellman and Lakeland centers.

Devine also explored the possibility of expanding the Lakeland Center facility, but wetlands and other issues made expansion at that site unfeasible.

The county owns the Lakeland Center, which would be put up for sale after the move, but has been leasing space at Fellman. The Fellman Center is owned by a private nonprofit group known as Shawano County Job Center Inc.

Miller said the county has paid about $2.7 million in rent at Fellman since the late 1990s.

The 13-acre Anderson Avenue property was appraised at $1.35 million, but the county found itself bidding against four other interested buyers before settling on the $1.8 million price tag, according to Miller.

Miller said the county also liked the location, less than 1/2 mile from the county courthouse.

The county took the $1.8 million from the general fund, which will mean no immediate effect for taxpayers. At some point, there will likely be a borrowing resolution brought forward to cover not only that expense but also remodeling costs at the Anderson Avenue property.

Miller said that could come to around $10 million to $12 million, including the property purchase, but he said that estimate is tentative, given there are no actual building plans yet in place.

“Until there are plans, we don’t know the cost,” Miller said.

In addition to the main building, the Anderson Avenue location has three large storage buildings that could be retro-fitted for features currently offered at the Lakeland Center, including a wood shop, a woodworking port and wood storage, and a can-crushing facility, Miller said.

Miller said it would be several months before any kind of relocation of services takes place, and that ample word would go out to clients to ensure that the transition is as seamless as possible.

“This is not going to happen overnight,” he said. “It’s going to be several months in the process.”