Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Stillwater County Commissioner Mark Crago

Crago: Nix the old hospital remodel

Commissioner wants building remodel taken off the table for good
Mark, I’m getting a headache. - Commissioner Maureen Davey

Stillwater County Commissioner Mark Crago says it’s time to stop spending money — and time — on trying to remodel the old hospital for county office space and move forward with a new plan.
Crago also has proposed ending the county’s working relationship with Spectrum Architects so another firm can be hired to move forward with a different plan to be presented to the taxpayers regarding the creation of more county office space.
Laying out his reasons for the proposals in a Tuesday afternoon meeting, Crago told fellow commissioners Maureen Davey and Dennis Shupak he has spent considerable time going through all the information — including public comments — that has been amassed during the last handful of years, and public input does not support using the old hospital.
“We don’t really have public support to move forward (with remodeling the old hospital),” Crago said, adding there are approximately 35 letters on file supporting other options and at the most, five citizens have expressed support in the old hospital renovation.
Additionally, not all of that minimal support was made during the official comment period of the project, which means it cannot be considered, said Stillwater County Attorney Nancy Rohde.
Expense was another factor Crago cited. With an estimated $200,000 abatement cost looming in the wake of the discovery of 15,000 square feet of asbestos in the building, any savings the county would have in using an existing building is now gone.
He estimated that while the remodel was presented with an estimated $3 million price tag, he believes that total would actually be closer to $5 million with extra things such as turning the old clinic building into parking. Crago is a contractor.
Shupak asked what would be done with the building, to which Crago answered “demo it,” then sell it off as lots for homes or possibly the expansion of the Meadowlark Assisted Living Facility.

While the complete tests are not yet back, Facilities Supervisor Jerry Bokma said a recent test for mold in the old hospital, West Annex and Meadowlark have come back clean.
Test results are still pending on airborne and surface sample testing.
While Davey called that news good, Crago said he was skeptical.
“It surprises me,” said Crago, adding mold can be visually seen walking through the old hospital. “It’s somewhat alarming to me.”
Crago also questioned Davey and Shupak about why Spectrum had not conducted a mold study, as the firm had said it would do at a meeting in July 2012. Davey did not recall that.
Davey defended Spectrum, saying the firm “has done a good job for us.” But she also agreed to get a second opinion from a different firm and a new plan.
Davey also said she doesn’t think the county can wait a year to get a federal grant to remediate the asbestos in the old hospital. Crago, Shupak and Rohde all agreed with her.
In the audience was resident Coralee Hicks who asked if a growth study had been done so that any constructions, or remodeling, could be designed to fit the county’s needs for the next few decades at least. Resident Maurie Petterson concurred.
“You’re creating the future here,” said Petterson.
No such study has been done specific to the project.
Petterson also broached the subject of asbestos that was disposed of improperly approximately two years ago during demolition work at the old hospital.
“I’m concerned we are hanging out legally,” said Rohde.
Davey said the improper disposable was an unintentional mistake.
Davey also said “I’m just trying to be practical” and sees a building that can still be used.
Crago again expressed his objections about putting money into an old building with asbestos and said the costs of remodeling now outweigh the benefits of using an existing building.
“Mark, I’m getting a headache,” said Davey while Crago was looking up information in an old report.