Various Hillsdale County government offices will move to a newly renovated building within the next week.
The County purchased the building, which once housed the Hillsdale Daily News, about four years ago for about $200,000. Renovations didn’t start until two years ago when funding finally came available. County Maintenance Director and Project Manager Randy Finley and his staff did almost all of the renovations.
“Everything that we could possibly do ourselves, we did,” Finley said. “We ripped it down to the bare bone. We gutted it all. We put a new roof on, put new floors in the basement, new HVAC systems in. It’s brand new from top to bottom.”
Many of the county offices are currently housed in the District Court building or annex across the street from the courthouse. The annex is currently for sale.
“We’re hoping that it will be put to better use for the downtown area, maybe a restaurant or retail with some offices or apartments above,” District 2 Commissioner Julie Games said. “We’re just hoping it’s put to better use.”
The county could have renovated the annex, but renovations would have had to take place after hours as the annex is a functioning office building. Furthermore, the the offices cannot be shut down during business hours per state law.
“It’s extremely high labor costs,” Finley said. “By doing it this way, my staff is able to do a majority of the work ourselves at a much slower pace, obviously, but we’re able to do it at practically the same cost if we were to refurbish the other one. It’s money well spent from the standpoint that we’ll have a more solid building in the end.”
Finley and his staff modernized the building with LED lighting throughout and pervious concrete in the parking lot. The pores in the concrete act as a drain for runoff.
“There are a lot of innovations that we put in the building that maybe we wouldn’t be able to afford if we had everything hired out,” Finley said. “It took us a little longer, but what we did was state of the art stuff.”
Finley hired an architect to draw up the blueprints for the building, but was able to make changes as needed.
“We used those as the base, but we didn’t adhere real tight,” Finley said. “If we saw that we needed to change something for the better, we did.”
The IT department is one of the offices moving from the courthouse to the new building. IT Director David Holcomb is balancing both the move, taking care of IT needs for the new office, and running IT for the rest of the County government.
“I have probably got at least 400 hours spent on the new building since they started construction,” Holcomb said. “It was a lot of planning. There is close to 12 miles of wire in that building just for the networks.”
Holcomb worked with Finley and his staff to ensure they were all on the same page.
“You have to have a lot of communication with all the people who are involved in the project and make sure everybody is on the same timeline,” Holcomb said.
The renovations should come in right on budget at around $665,000.
“We have to spend money to do this,” Games said. “But to build this building would have cost us millions. We’ve kept the building and made it a little more modern. I’m pretty proud of the way it’s turned out.”