County to spend $23 million on renovation, additions

Expected to move in to new building in December 2016

The final price tag for La Crosse County to move out of its current admin building is $23 million. The County Board approved the total cost of the project Tuesday night.

The transition has taken quite a long time and a few different looks at the numbers, but County Board Chair Tara Johnson said she is very excited to finally get things underway.

The $23 million will fund three different projects and will have a very minimal impact on your county taxes.

In about 15 months, the building that has housed La Crosse County administration for the last 40 years will no longer do so, the current Associated Bank building right up the street will.

On top of the transition to the Associated Bank building, construction will take place on the county Law Enforcement Center and the Health and Human Services Building as well, in an effort to make things more efficient for customers.

“We are trying to reconfigure office space for all of the departments in the county and really trying to co-locate offices where we can see increased efficiency based on that co-location,” Johnson said.

The Health and Human Services Building will be gaining 24,000 square feet on its west side.

“Human Services will un-double a lot of their offices that they have doubled up right now,” county Facilities Director Jim Speropulos said. “Along with that, the Aging Department that’s in the administrative center will move over to that building when it’s completed.”

The county will be issuing bonds and borrowing the $23 million for the three projects, which will raise the county tax rate by 6 cents in 2016 and 2017, then an additional 8 cents in 2018. It will add about $20 to the annual tax bill on a $100,000 home.

Johnson said moving to another building is necessary and more cost-effective than paying to remove the asbestos that’s in the walls of the current admin building.

The building was sold to Stizo Development for $250,000 to create student housing.

“They can do that in an empty building less expensively than we would if we were going to stay in the building and have to move people and do that abatement over a much longer period of time,” Johnson said.

Johnson said she is very pleased that almost all the bids that came in are from local builders and contractors. She said having all those bids from local companies is how the county helps the local economy.

Construction on the Health and Human Services Building is expected to begin later this month. Associated Bank will be moving into its new location on Lot C across from the County Courthouse in June and the county expects to be in its new building by the end of next year.