Old Countryside site no longer option for county - Watertown Daily Times Online : News

Old Countryside site no longer option for county

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Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2012 11:11 am

JEFFERSON — With the former Countryside Home property now sold to another party, it appears the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors will return to debate over whether it wants to locate a proposed county highway department facility at Site C — county-owned land on Jefferson’s southwest side near Industrial Avenue.

The county’s infrastructure committee was informed of the sale of the former Countryside Home property Wednesday when it met, in part, to receive a status report on the county’s offer to purchase the land.

“We’re certainly disappointed, in that we had a consensus on the board to proceed with the purchase of the former Countryside Home for use as the site for a new highway department facility,” Jefferson County Administra-tor Gary Petre told the Daily Times after the meeting. “We spent many months discussing this without a consensus on other site options and many board members wanted to pursue this. It’s too bad the timing didn’t work out and that there was another party interested in this property that didn’t have the contingencies we had.”

Jefferson County Corporation Counsel Phil Ristow said the property is currently FDIC-controlled and there is a 21-day period in which the buyer can “walk-through” the property to make sure there are no environmental or remediation concerns with the property, such as an over-abundance of asbestos.

“They have some kind of 21-day walk-through type of thing, in which they can do a review to confirm there are no environmental concerns,” Ristow said. “The bank expects to close the deal by the end of October and the county decided it didn’t want to match that.”

The broker for the deal, according to Ristow, is Mike Herl. A call to Herl from the Daily Times seeking the name of the buyer of the property was not returned by newspaper deadline today.

Petre said the next step in the process of the county finding a suitable home for the highway department is for the board to decide if it wants to continue to consider Site C.

“I am just hoping we can move forward on this,” Petre said.

“We’re waiting for the board to make a decision on this and we have to move forward,” Jefferson County Highway Department Commissioner Bill Kern said this morning. “The board will have to get right back at its discussions again.”

Kern said the county’s current Puerner Street highway department headquarters continues to deteriorate.

“Some action has to be taken and the committee is aware of conditional problems from the studies that have been done over the past 13 years,” he said. “We are at a point where the facility conditions continue to deteriorate and we have to move forward.”

Kern said the taxpayers of Jefferson County are not saving any money by what he termed a “lack of action.”

“The longer this decision is delayed, the higher the likelihood of a serious accident or a major building code compliance fine,” Kern said. “Safety is the top priority of the highway department and the conditions of the 1938 building we are in are not conducive to a safe-working environment. Our employees are doing the best they can with the work environment, but the old building is very poor.”

Also Wednesday, the infrastructure committee received a report from Pete Weston of Design Alliance of Fort Atkinson in which Weston displayed the possible design of a new, east side, main courthouse entrance. Committee members seemed in favor of the proposed plans, although Weston did not have a plan for what is currently the main, west side entrance to the building. Weston will prepare plans for the west side of the building in the coming weeks and present those ideas to the committee.

According to Weston, the ideal plan for the courthouse’s east side entrance would include a glass enclosure facing south and east. Inside the entrance enclosure that would protrude from the current building would be the sheriff’s department’s security scanning equipment.

The infrastructure committee on Wednesday also addressed designs and bidding for the courthouse bathroom remodeling project. The bathrooms to be remodeled are located on the courthouse’s north end.

The county plans to come up with bid specifications for the project and those will be submitted to the state to ensure they are ADA compliant.

Petre said the county has $40,000 set aside in this year’s budget for the bathroom remodeling project, but it appears that amount may be insufficient.

“The cost for this project is unknown until the bidding takes place. We expect it to cost more than the $40,000,” he said, adding that the county is expecting it will have to build an ADA-compliant unisex bathroom that would be located just east of what is currently the men’s bathroom on the north end of the courthouse.

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