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Is county’s decision on Jungclaus building déjà vu all over again?

Ever feel like you’ve been down a road before, and it’s the wrong road?
Well, the McLeod County commissioners are doing just that with their hasty decision to purchase the Jungclaus Implement building on Chandler Avenue and turn it into a consolidated county office building.
First, the building is not designed as an office building.
Second, it removes another piece of commercial property from Glencoe's tax rolls.
Third, if it comes to fruition, it will leave empty two more big buildings in Glencoe — the North Complex and the old Glenhaven building that houses the county’s Health and Human Services employees.
Fourth, we’ve tried this approach to consolidate county offices in the past and voters rejected the idea.
It happened in 1993-94 with a plan, promoted by local bankers Gale Hoese and Tim Hacker. It, too, called for the consolidation of county offices, but on the downtown courthouse property. As noted in a Jan. 1993 Chronicle, “The downtown courthouse is essential to a strong downtown Glencoe.”
It also noted the downtown courthouse project would centralize the location for the convenience of the public; it would be more efficient, cut the cost of duplication, provide more space flexibility, make for easier office interaction, and cut down of travel times.
That sounded eerily similar to what is being proposed 25 years later. As noted in a recent Chronicle: “The goal is to move most of the county’s Glencoe-based departments into one facility, which would be known as the McLeod County Government Center.”
The 1993-94 plans did not require the county to purchase property because it already owned the land of the former Community Building on the west side of the courthouse.
That land remains vacant after voters rejected the project in 1994 when several commissioners and their allies forced a referendum. It was pure, ugly politics back then, and the opposition was the kiss of death for the well-thought out project that would have expanded the courthouse, added additional court rooms and would have brought back much of the North Complex staff into a single location. It was literally “one-stop shopping” for the public.
Now fast forward 25 years, and, voila, let’s consolidate county offices!
By the way, there was another expansion plan that also is now collecting dust in some courthouse office. It involved county plans to build a new administrative building on property the county bought from the Shamla brothers. It was the site of the Shamlas’ Glencoe Oil business east of the courthouse. That plan never materialized either. It, too, was designed to consolidate county offices in a central downtown location.
So what does the latest plan do? It consolidates the county offices not in downtown Glencoe but in the west end near Highway 212. It also leaves a lot of the courthouse intact. While it does close two of its current county facilities, it replaces them with another (Jungclaus building) away from downtown Glencoe.
So what have we really accomplished with this latest plan? Not much.
While the commissioners did not receive any public comment at its recent hearing, its project brochure did not arrive at my home until three days after the hearing. That’s a tad late, folks.
So if we follow past precedent, the next logical step is to hold a referendum to see if the public is supportive of spending another $13 million so the county can become “more efficient.”
My bet is the commissioners will not call for referendum unless forced to.
Dé jà vu, anyone?

Rich Glennie was the editor of The Chronicle for 23 years. He retired Aug. 1, 2014.