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County to continue working on building master plan

POSTED: December 30, 2013 6:10 p.m.

Effingham County commissioners are trying to figure out not only what offices need to be grouped together but where the county’s main office needs to be.


Commissioners conducted a workshop earlier this month on a possible master building plan, looking at where county offices are now and to where some offices could be relocated.


The first question to be answered, county director of community relations Adam Kobek said, was where the county government needs to be, if it needs to be in Springfield, be it downtown or elsewhere.


“I think that’s the ultimate question,” Chairman Wendall Kessler said.


“All things being equal,” Kobek said, “it’s where do you want to be?”


Kobek added county finance director Joanna Wright said it was helpful to have the county’s main offices in close proximity to the tax commissioner’s office.


Interim county administrator Toss Allen also probed if the county has a goal of keeping like services together. The county has considered a campus approach, combining related services into one area. Kobek said the county has moved toward that goal somewhat with the offices at the Historic Courthouse.


“A campus provides a one-stop shop,” he said.


Allen said there have been complaints from those who have to go to the county annex to start the process for a building permit and then finish that at the county administrative complex.


Kobek said building master plans have been contemplated since he started working for the county.


“There are still offices at the county annex, and others scattered at lots around Springfield,” he said. “Each move for administration frees up space for someone else.”


The county has 55 buildings it operates and the collective age of the facilities is 1,527 years old, Kobek said.


The current county administrative complex, purchased in 1995, was once the First Baptist Church of Springfield. The county annex was a school, the former Effingham Academy, designed and built in 1960, Kobek pointed out.


“Having a functional building that is planned to meet the needs of the user can create some efficiencies,” Kobek said.


Every building has an administrative assistant or receptionist, Kobek said, and combining offices could eliminate the need for many of them.


“I think we can make everything work,” Kobek said. “But it’s where do you want us to be? All the options have positives and negatives.”


The chairman also said the First Effingham Bank building in Springfield is on the market, and the county also could use land it owns already to erect a new administrative complex.


“We could build a new building, and you can build it like you need it and not have to retrofit it,” he said. “There are several routes we can go. The question we have to answer is, do we want to remain close to the judicial complex?”


Allen estimated any new space would have to be approximately 18,000 square feet to encompass more offices. The current Department of Family and Children’s Services office, adjacent to the county administrative complex, is about 9,000 square feet.


Commissioners also pondered moving to “the hill,” where the sheriff’s office, jail and county public works are now. They discussed moving the public works shop, perhaps to the county sanitation department’s location, and using the newly-available space. They also wanted to make sure that whatever solution they agree upon has enough parking.


“I think we have spent enough energy and enough money to make things work,” Kessler said. “We need new construction.”

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