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MailTribune.com
  • What's not to like?

    The county's human services building project makes sense from every angle
  • There he goes again.
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  • There he goes again.
    Jackson County Administrator Danny Jordan has repeatedly managed to do more with less when it comes to county finances. Now he's figured out a way to tear down an old building and put up a new one for less than it would cost to renovate the old one.
    We're talking about the former federal building on Eighth Street between Holly and Ivy. The county purchased the four-story, 85,000-square-foot structure in 2011 for $1.9 million after the Postal Service announced plans to move the Medford post office to another location. The county's plan was to remodel the building, including seismic retrofitting, and consolidate health and human services from a variety of locations in the county into a single building.
    After determining the actual cost to retrofit the building to modern earthquake standards and remodel the interior, Jordan determined that tearing it down and starting over would actually be approximately $1 million less expensive, while yielding a more usable building.
    The change of plan was partly because the passage of the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare will approximately double the number of county residents eligible for the Oregon Health Plan. The future of the ACA was in doubt until the Supreme Court upheld it last summer and President Barack Obama won re-election in November.
    The new building will be only two stories instead of four, but will be larger by about 1,000 square feet. All public services will be provided on the ground floor, with administrative offices on the second floor, making access easier for clients with disabilities.
    A six-story parking garage will be constructed behind the building to accommodate clients and employees of the various agencies.
    The parking garage will be built with about $8.5 million from the county general fund. The new building will be paid for with money saved over several years from ending fund balances in the various health and human services agencies the county operates. The county receives a mixture of state and federal money to provide the services.
    The project will pay back the cost of the property and construction of the parking garage over the first several years of operation from lease payments to the county from the agencies occupying the building. After that, the lease payments will be a source of income to the county, as well as covering maintenance expenses.
    County officials may be in for some criticism from county residents who see this project as unnecessary, but it makes a great deal of sense. The county now provides a wide range of services in leased or owned buildings scattered throughout the county. More than 80 percent of county residents who use those services live on the west side of Medford.
    Efficiency alone makes this a sensible project. Add the fact that it will pay for itself and generate income for the county, all without debt and without asking county residents for any tax money, and it's clear the project is a benefit to all.
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