(7/2017) On June 20th many county residents were able to tour the county’s new Human Service Building (HSB), formerly the Herff Jones yearbook plant which has been repurposed and transformed into professional offices and court facilities. Residents were truly impressed with the facility and all that it has to offer. During the tour I met
former Herf Jones employees who were amazed how attractive and functional their general work areas had become. They had to ask themselves, "Is this really the spot where I once worked?" A retired IRS official, met me at the end of his tour. He informed me that of all the governmental building he has visited or worked in throughout the U.S., our HSB was the nicest
governmental building he had ever seen.
The purchase of the Herf Jones building came after rejecting two previous proposals for a new building; the construction costs exceeded the budget that was set. Knowing this, long-time friend John Longanecker encouraged the commissioners to look at the Herf Jones building as a possible option. As many people know, John has a keen eye
identifying material and properties that are good candidates for repurposing. We acted upon John’s advice and arranged to see the property. The Herf Jones property offered 93,000 sq. ft. under roof, a complete maintenance area, nearly 200 paved parking spaces, public sewer and water, all on 26 acres.
After our initial tour of the property we realized that the potential existed to accomplish our goals plus provide the proper environment for our IT department, its equipment and data center (formerly a challenging server room). This was truly a serious need and a high priority, but it was considered cost prohibitive to include it in our
previous proposals that, in themselves, were beyond our budget. Also we were confident there would be the possibility of adding two magisterial district justice offices and a larger and more functional multi-purpose conference room. Being optimistic about an expanded building project; we made our offer to purchase the Herf Jones property contingent upon a thorough
After completing our due diligence we closed on the property at a below -market value purchase price of $2.25 million. The appraisal completed for the property determined a market value of slightly more than $3 million. Both the appraiser and our architectural engineer were impressed how well maintained the building was.
After the property purchase we completed the selection of our architectural engineer to develop a plan that would fit our concepts and budget. After several months of wading through details the final plans and specifications were completed and were placed on the market for bids. When the bids were in, the total package came in within budget
and less than our estimated costs. Several weeks ago we found out that if this same project were bid under today’s market conditions, it would have been 20% to 25% higher. That would have put the project over budget and necessitated the elimination of portions of the project. Fortunately for us and the county we hit a sweet spot in the construction market.
Being able to stay within budget for the entire proposal meant the IT department and data center, the MDJ offices, and a more functional conference room would be a reality. The IT department would be in the ideal location and environment for many years to come by adding it to the HSB. Our investment in servers and supporting equipment would
be well protected and also offer sufficient room for precision servicing of equipment. Our old location made servicing equipment very difficult and presented a lack of adequate room for future upgrades. To that end we had repeated recommendations for a proper location. In today’s data management environment the inability to upgrade will eventually lead to the loss
of data processing ability. That is too costly of a situation not to correct when the opportunity presents its self.
Locating new MDJ offices in the HSB will allow the termination of a lease and allow the county to sell its Middle Street MDJ office. This sale will provide funds to offset construction costs of HSB. Once sold, this real estate will, hopefully, go on the property tax rolls and generate new tax revenues.
One of the goals for our new construction was to improve operational efficiencies and provide a pleasant work environment. Adding a larger and more functional conference room was a component of achieving that goal. We now have ability to divide one large conference room into four separate rooms with sound proofing. This is a tremendous
upgrade from two marginally suitable rooms that had obstructed view and confined space seating. Experience told us we needed suitable and adequate meeting rooms for all departments to function effectively. The enlarged conference room was decided upon to alleviate this situation. We were able to provide this within a narrow margin of our budget; to enlarge the
conference room at a later date was not practical. Post construction enlargements are more costly than the initial construction costs. That was also a supporting reason for not adding the MDJ offices at a later date.
Our architectural engineer and I had a very good conversation in summarizing the project. We had a quick review of the cost of renovation per square foot. That figure came in well below pre-construction estimates. To his delight and my satisfaction, the cost was $65/sq. ft. That is a tribute to a seasoned architect and excellent planning.
School Districts should take note of our successful and cost effective repurposing of the Herf Jones building. Rather than demolish or abandon solid buildings such as the Arendtsville Elementary and Bendersville Elementary to build new, an honest look at the cost savings of repurposing seems in order. I believe all tax-supported entities owe it to the tax payers
to examine the savings repurposing can achieve. Have a wonderful and safe Fourth of July.
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