County approves borrowing $14.6M for new human services center

Facility will relocate county’s Fellman and Lakeland centers

Shawano County supervisors Thursday approved borrowing up to $14.6 million for its new Human Services Department, which will merge services currently offered at the Lakeland and Fellman centers.

The county last year purchased the Dennison’s Retail Lumber property at W7327 Anderson Ave. in the town of Wescott for $1.8 million after determining the Fellman and Lakeland centers were inadequate and expansion at those sites impractical.

“By no means did we make this plan to be meant as a Taj Mahal,” said Supervisor Richard Ferfecki, a member of the ad hoc building committee tasked with planning the new human services center. “The building was designed to stand the test of time with the most effective materials and workmanship.”

County Board Chairman Jerry Erdmann, also on the committee, said the new facility would serve the needs of human services clients for 50 to 75 years.

“Lakeland is pretty much done,” committee member and Supervisor Tom Kautza said. “It would be fruitless to try to remodel it.”

Fellman Center services will be housed in an entirely new building, while the former Dennison’s Lumber building will be remodeled to accommodate the Lakeland Center services.

The property also contains a large shed that will be used for storage by the sheriff’s department and maintenance department.

The new building will also house computers and servers currently located in the courthouse basement where they are vulnerable to water leaks and possible damage.

The county has been paying about $60,000 a year to rent the Fellman Center.

The Lakeland Center will be put up for sale. According to county officials, an appraisal of the property placed its value at about $1 million.

With the new facility, the county will be bringing in about $140,000 a year in rent and reimbursements, according to county Administrative Coordinator Brent Miller, which will come from the Aging and Disability Resource Center and some other human services offices.

“Many of our programs pay for office space already,” Human Services Director Rick Kane said. “We bill back those programs that are federally and state funded, so that will offset the cost of the building.”

The committee opened bids for the project on Wednesday.

The Boson Company of Marshfield was named contractor for the new building, expected to cost $8.58 million.

The existing building and accessory structures will be remodeled by Sivercrest Construction of Kimberly at an expected cost of $3.26 million.

Other costs associated with the borrowing include consulting fees for project manager Devine Construction Inc. of Portage, the physical relocation of office furnishings and equipment from the existing centers, new furnishings, the bonding fee, contingency funds in the event the project runs into problems and prep work on the property done by the county highway department.

Supervisor Deb Noffke argued that the county was borrowing more than it needed when some of that money could come out of the general fund, including the $650,000 set aside for the contingency fund and the $100,000 for the highway department’s work.

“We’ve got three quarters of a million dollars that we shouldn’t have to bond for,” she said.

“We can take that money out of the general fund, but there are other large ticket items that are coming up,” Kautza said.

He added that if the contingency fund is actually needed, there wouldn’t be anywhere else to get it from.

At least one board member expressed offense at the way the project has been pushed by county staff, to a point that, he said, he had never seen while serving in the state Assembly.

“I have never witnessed a proposal that was lobbied as intensively or argued as forcefully by employees as this one,” Supervisor John Ainsworth said. “This is unique, to say the least.”

Ainsworth voted against the borrowing, as did Noffke and supervisors Randy Young and Mike McClelland.