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Friday, June 7th, 2019

$2M plan would add county office space

Officials propose repurposing former Cheryl Ann building

By William Kincaid
CELINA - Mercer County commissioners on Tuesday rolled out a multifaceted proposal to address officials' pleas for more office space.
The plan includes a $2 million renovation of the former Cheryl Ann building.
"Things haven't been cemented, but we are moving forward with an architect to start to look at renovating the building out there, which then would allow some potential shuffling and moving around," commissioner Greg Homan said.
Commissioners said they would focus on converting the bulk of the county-owned, 20,000-square-foot Cheryl Ann Building at 4980 Mud Pike, Celina, into an agriculture services center to house offices for the soil and water conservation district, OSU Extension, Farm Service Agency and Farm Bureau.
Those agencies are located in the Mercer County Central Services building in Celina.
County maintenance staff would perform the renovation over two years, according to the proposal.
"After relocating the agricultural offices to the new facility, other relocations of existing offices can happen as well as the removal of the aging prosecutors' office building and the creation of needed specialized parking access," commissioner Greg Homan wrote.
Homan noted commissioners intend to tap Garmann/Miller Architects-Engineers for design and renovation services.
Repurposing an existing county facility would be less expensive than constructing a new building, Homan wrote. Also, the Mud Pike location would be better for farmers, commissioners said.
"This service center will allow three offices to be located together and serve residents," Homan wrote. "The ag center will not only have office and storage space but also has the potential for a community meeting room for farmers, 4-H youth and other community members."
County prosecutor Matt Fox on Tuesday met with commissioners to share his thoughts about possibly moving his office from its location at 119 N. Walnut St. to the central services building.
Commissioners noted the HVAC system and roof of the prosecutor's office, a repurposed house, need to be replaced.
"Those are issues when we kind of look at 'what do we do with those buildings? Do we start sinking money into them or is it more feasible or a better office to look at relocating the prosecutor's office staff?' " Homan asked.
Fox said he would prefer to stay in the current location. However, he said he understands that commissioners, looking to make the best use of taxpayer dollars, must use space as effectively, efficiently and economically as possible.
"We like where we're at. We have multiple conference spaces. We have storage space," Fox said. "We have really good space, and we're in a pretty good location because we're not in the courthouse, but we're right next to the courthouse."
Staff often must take several files with them while walking back and forth to the courthouse.
"Our preference is to stay where we are. Our second preference is to be closer to the courthouse, not farther away."
Fox said if his office must be moved, he would rather move into the courthouse than the central services building.
"Because most of our work is there, for our day-to-day operation, it is nice to be standalone because I come in in the middle of the night for search warrants," Fox pointed out.
Commissioners noted the offices of the treasurer, recorder and auditor - all located in the courthouse - need to be in close proximity because of their interconnected nature.
They took no action on the matter.
Commissioners earlier this year signed off on a feasibility study of whether the former Cheryl Ann building could be converted into office space for various county departments and agencies.
Commissioners approved a $10,400 contract with Celina's Revival Design Studio Inc. to complete the study that analyzed existing structure, systems and future expansion opportunities of the building.
The firm also interviewed county department heads to gauge their needs, examine space in the central services building and complete potential layouts of department offices in the Cheryl Ann and central services buildings.
Commissioners have ultimate ownership of the Cheryl Ann facility consisting of two buildings connected by a walkway, even though the Mercer County Board of Developmental Disabilities has funded its construction and maintenance, according to a memorandum of understanding between the boards.
Mercer County DD had used the building for workshop facilities for daily habilitation and employment of adults with disabilities, according to the memorandum.
  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities in 2016 ruled that county DD agencies could no longer provide residential services beyond normal day programs. The federal government's long-range plan mandates that county boards cannot - without creating a conflict of interest - recommend a set of services and then provide them using Medicaid dollars.
In response, CA Group agreed to become a private entity and take over the adult habilitation, vocational and transportation services. The nonprofit CA Group was founded more than 40 years ago as an arm of the agency to employ individuals with disabilities in a manner the board could not due to state restrictions.
CA Group on Jan. 1, 2017, began providing the services.
Mercer County DD Superintendent Shawn Thieman in October told his board members that workshop facilities once housed in the building had been relocated to locations in Celina and Coldwater, freeing up about 15,000 square feet.
The workshop programs were moved to sites that are more accessible to participants while reducing the need for transportation, officials have said.
As a result, the agency uses only about 5,000 square feet at the building, potentially making the remaining space available for use by another county agency.
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