Panel seeking to cut annex costs

Leader Reporter

Members of Shawano County's Ad-Hoc County Annex Building Committee made it clear during its meeting Monday afternoon that they want to make significant changes to reduce the cost of a proposed courthouse annex/sheriff's department remodeling project.

Monday was the first meeting of the committee since last Wednesday's decision by the county board to table until at least April the proposed $12.65 million project.

That action came after members of the public submitted petitions with over 390 names opposing the project and asking for it to be placed on a public referendum.

The committee Monday approved a motion to have new county administrative coordinator James Arkens meet with the architectural firm of Somerville, Inc. and county department heads to try to make significant cuts in space for the project which would then cut costs.

Members also agreed all possibilities need to be examined to reduce the project's cost. District 16 supervisor Marlin Noffke suggested the board might want to consider trying to privatize the county's printing department.

"Why not take a look at possibly contracting out for the county's printing," said Noffke. "It would certainly cut costs and it would eliminate one area that needs significant space in the building."

Jack Somerville, of Somerville Inc., said they could eliminate about 8,400 square feet by downsizing two floors in the proposed annex.

"We could do that by leaving Probation and Parole at their Green Bay St. location, leaving the printing department in the current courthouse basement and adjusting various offices," said Somerville.

With those possible changes the proposed price tag would still be in the range of $12-million. That was not enough of a cut in the price tag to satisfy committee members and they doubted the public would appreciate such a small reduction in the price tag.

Somerville said his company could work with Arkens and the department heads on possible space cuts and the additional cost could be only about $1,000. That figure would not include the making of new drawings for the project.

The county board had budgeted $50,000 for Somerville's design work up to this point but nearly all that money has been spent.

Committee chairman Norb Kautza said the group needed to remember their original goal when they started the project process months ago.

"Our main goal in the beginning was to get the prisoners and the courthouse into the same building," said Kautza. "We need to look at that first and eliminate as much of the other things to get that price down."

"We need to get that price down," said district 10 supervisor Vernon Ainsworth. "Let's let the department heads take another look at it and ask them what are their needs and what they could get by with."

County corporation counsel Jeff Kuglitsch suggested supervisors look at the pros and cons of building for long term versus short term needs.

"If you are going to build for the current needs only that's wrong," said Kuglitsch. "It's shortsighted to build for short term because you'll be facing the same problem again in a short period of time."

District 11 supervisor Roger Breitzman said board members need to realize that voters are ready for a tax rebellion.

"Enough is enough," said Breitzman. "You are driving people off of their farms and out of their homes. Going on the assumption that the people don't care about how much you spend on the project was the worst thing you could do. You got people aroused."

"If you take this project to the voters at such a high price tag you might as well go by the register of deeds office and pick up a death certificate because you will use it," Breitzman added.

Breitzman warned fellow supervisors that voters will carefully watch what the board does next.

"If you think you are safe in the election process because you're uncontested in the elections, think again," said Breitzman. "Heed the warning, you need to think of tax reform."

Breitzman then engaged in angry words with district 12 supervisor Cliff Powers. He accused Powers of "stabbing him in the back" with an alleged attempt to recruit someone to run against him (Breitzman) in the April election. Powers angrily denied Breitzman's allegation. Breitzman is unopposed in the April election.

District 6 supervisor JP Drengler said he didn't believe the people would get behind a scaled down version.

"We need to look at alternatives," said Drengler. "Look again at moving social services to the old Qualheim building and let's have an efficiency expert study how we can more effectively make use of our existing space which could help eliminate the need for building new space."

Drengler added that serious consideration needs to also be made to what the future use of computers and workers working in their homes will mean when space needs are discussed.

Somerville told the committee that much less than 10 percent of the space needs in the proposed building are for the storage of files or documents. The future transfer of paper reports and folders to electronic discs or computer would make a very small impact on the total space being considered for construction.

County director of information services Tim Johnson said it would take 10 people about 18 months to transfer all paperwork to electronic form. He added that does not include all the paperwork generated in the social services department which has a very significant amount of paper work.

He did not have concrete figures on the paperwork in storage in that department.

By Joe Vandel
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