Chippewa County will soon learn affordability of relocating Family Services to Montevideo, Minnesota, bank

·3 min read


— The Chippewa County Board of Commissioners could learn as early as June 20 whether the Minnwest Bank building in downtown Montevideo will provide an affordable option for relocating the Family Services Department.

Erik Daniels, architect and project manager with Klein McCarthy Architects, told the commissioners on Tuesday that the firm would move quickly to provide an assessment of the building by that date. The commissioners approved the company's low bid of $13,900 just one month ago to provide an assessment for the county.

The county has a one-year option to purchase the bank building. The commissioners are looking for options to relocate Family Services from the current location it shares with Prairie Five Community Action in the Community Services Building on the 600 block of North 11th Street in Montevideo. The aged building — it was originally the city and county hospital — needs what are considered cost-prohibitive renovations to continue in its role.

The study by Klein McCarthy will look at the potential costs for renovating the Minnwest Bank building, as well as determine whether Family Services and Prairie Five can both operate in the building. Prairie Five is

a private nonprofit agency

offering programs for people in need — ranging from aging services and child care to home repairs and transportation. It serves five western Minnesota counties: Big Stone, Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, Swift and Yellow Medicine.

Daniels said the two-story bank building offers just over 18,000 square feet of space, with 9,178 square feet on the lower floor and 9,297 square feet on the upper floor. In comparison, the Family Services Department and its 45 employees currently have 22,000 square feet in the Community Services Building.

That works out to 490 square feet per full-time equivalent employee, which is well above the per employee space available in the Family Service buildings in area counties, according to information provided by the architect.

Prairie Five has about 35 employees and occupies about 14,000 square feet. The Prairie Five operations include a community food shelf and kitchen, which could be operated in a separate location, according to discussions at the meeting.

The commissioners repeated their earlier concerns about project affordability. Board Chair Matt Gilbertson said the county is wary of metropolitan area costs for construction as compared to rural areas.

"What we're looking at is doing a good job while looking out for the taxpayer," said Commissioner David Lieser by way of agreement with the board chair's concerns about the costs.

Daniels said the county would likely not need to add a sprinkler system to the bank building, one of the costs concerns cited by the commissioners. However, he said they would need to meet fire barrier codes if corridors are constructed, and would see added costs for enclosing a stairway and repairing or replacing the elevator. The two-floor elevator itself would likely cost $120,000, he said.

The architect also cautioned that it is very difficult at this time to project building costs as labor and material costs fluctuate month to month. He said there are contractors adding roughly 5% to costs for each month into the future.