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County looks at leasing office space

With a new planning director and a new legal counselor, plus overcrowding in other county offices, the proposal is to lease office space and relocate a few departments
Citing a need for office space, the county is looking at a proposal that would move the Environmental Health and Building departments across the street.
   At the present time the staff of these two departments, along with the county planning department are housed in offices on the ground floor of the courthouse. Since taking over as county counsel, Jeff Wilson has been using the tiny law library as his office. That, County Judge Scott Cooper says, is not working.
   Because there are still plans for the county to purchase the old Pacific Power building on Court Street, an interim proposal to lease more office space is being looked at. Cooper said leasing the power company's building until a purchase is completed is one option, however the building has a history of health issues. "We don't want our people to be put in harm's way," he concluded.
   Other possible office space was also discussed, but quickly discounted. "One is heated by wood," county Building Inspector Bill Clemens said, "and another has an illegal paint booth." With little to choose from, the best option appears to be across Third Street from the courthouse.
   Clemens told the county court Wednesday that it would cost about $100,000 to install a modular building. That idea, locating a modular on county land on South Second Street, had been discussed earlier. And the cost of constructing a stick-built office structure would be twice that amount. Leasing the building where the video store was, 303 Third Street, is more cost effective, especially if it's only until the county purchases the Pacific Power building.
   Clemens said he thinks it will cost about $550 per month to rent the 1,600 square foot space. Additional remodeling such as carpeting the area, installing cubicles and making computer upgrades would also be needed. A computer line that could be adapted to link up with the courthouse is already present. Clemens estimated the cost of turning the space into usable offices would add about $7,000 to the move.
   County Judge Scott Cooper pointed out that this site is about the only space close to the courthouse that is available. "Any other space and we'll have to find parking," he explaining that people could still use the county parking lot behind the courthouse.
   One possible problem with using existing parking was brought up by Environmental Health Department Director Russ Hansen. "You would probably get complaints from people having to cross the highway (Third St.), especially during heavy traffic times during hunting season in September and October," Hansen said, "but if you can put up with that, it's probably a good idea."
   Cooper agreed, saying he wants to find something decent for the staff to work out of while not spending a lot of money. "Not when we may be tearing it down in a year or two."
   Long range plans call for the county to purchase the building on the corner of Third and Court, along with the old Pacific Power & Light building. If everything goes according to that plan, the PP&L building would be upgraded and remodeled into office space. The county building department, along with the Environmental Health and Planning departments would be located there. If space is available, even the city planning department could end up in that location.
   However, it was pointed out that negotiations for the purchase with Pacific Power have not even begun. Even if the county owned the electric company building, "We'd still be out five or six months even if we started today," Cooper said, "with the planning, getting necessary permits and renovating. Meanwhile, we currently have four people working out of Bill Clemens' office. It's unworkable. And Jeff (Wilson) can't keep working in the law library."
   Clemens was directed to investigate the actual costs of making a move to the other side of the street and report back to the court at a September meeting.