Winona County’s tentative plans for an addition to its Third Street office building are perplexing on a number of fronts. As everyone knows, times are tough. The space to be replaced by the addition is currently leased at a very favorable figure in the old Plaza Building now owned by Merchants Bank, which has indicated a willingness to extend into the future.
What is the point, then, of moving forward with new construction when the county budget is sure to be pinched well into the future. And, the cost for the addition, rather than shrinking due to the recession, instead seems to be growing as fast as county government itself.
At this time the County Commissioners should be doing their best to give taxpayers a break from new expenditures as far into the future as possible. Along those lines I admire the thinking of Commissioner Marcia Ward, who said, “We have good people. Good people can work out of a shoe box and make things happen.”
If and when new space is needed in the future, why has so little been said of the fact that the current office building was designed to accommodate two additional floors, with outsized footings and elevator with the additional capacity already built in. At the time, that additional capacity was a major sales pitch for the new building. Sherman Smith, its design architect, assures me that adding the space vertically, as was originally allowed for in its design, would cost far less than building from the ground up on an additional footprint.
The current building is more than reasonably attractive, and its appearance fits in with the rest of the campus nicely. Why not add to it in an unobtrusive, seamless fashion?
This whole project should be slowed way down, and if it does indeed seem necessary in the future, let’s build it as was economically planned for in the past.