Oneida County purchased the former WPS building on Davenport. St. in Rhinelander back in Dec., 2008 for $525,000. Today a sign on the front lawn of that property states the price of $325,000 and the structure remains empty.
Back in 2008, Oneida County supervisors thought the building would make a good place for the Department on Health and Aging to expand and provide a better spot for the Health Department than the courthouse. However, both those agencies have found new headquarters in the former Northwoods Job Center structure near Trig’s.
The possible future of that property was discussed last Tuesday at the monthly Oneida County board meeting. Using this building for expansion of the UW-Extension and the Land and Water Conservation Department was one of three options presented to the board in the form of a resolution. Right now both those departments are housed in the lower level of the Rhinelander/Oneida County Airport.
“We don’t have the space we need to perform what we need to do,” Erica Brewster, UW-Extension, director said. “We have two people located in a storage space. We also lost space through the FAA when they needed more room and we have no reception area.”
The Solid Waste and Buildings and Grounds Committee, headed by supervisor Billy Fried, brought three options for the board to look at as far as expanding space for these departments. One of those options proposed remodeling the WPS building that was built in 1967. Lu Ann Brunette, buildings and grounds director, explained what the cost would be to get that building up to code and suitable for occupancy. The total cost proposed was close to $400,000 and many of those estimates were based on numbers that were tabulated in 2009.
Some of the more costly renovations included in the resolution included $135,000 for “finishes” including wallpaper, carpet, paint and window coverings; $35,000 to update the restrooms to code; $37,000 for computer infrastructure; $25,000 for heating and cooling costs; and $20,000 to partition walls to make offices.
Brunette estimated that it would cost the county $71,537 a year to maintain the structure if it was remodeled.
Another option presented was renovating space at the airport at a cost of $246,693. The county pays $40,193 a year to rent that space. The least costly of the three options was proposed at $110,193 and that would include moving the Land and Water Conservation Department back to the courthouse freeing up more space at the airport for UW-Extension. Some of those costs included $20,000 to create additional space for the Land and Water Department, $10,000 to create a reception area and $40,000 for wall finishes, flooring/furniture and equipment for the UW-Extension.
After the options were presented a motion was made to send the resolution back to the committee to look at even more possibilities for accommodating the two departments.
Supervisor Jerry Shidell, expressed his disgust with the number of options the committee proposed.
“To come to us with just three proposals is irresponsible,” he said. “That’s why we are referring this back.”
Supervisor Bob Mott also thought there were other options that could be explored.
“What if we remodeled half the (WPS) building and rented the other half out,” he said. “And why not explore other rental properties in the downtown area.”
Supervisor Jack Sorenson had an even more drastic idea.
“I support the motion to send this back to committee,” he said. “I personally think the WPS building should be knocked down and demolished. It’s in poor condition.”
The board voted unanimously to send the resolution back to the committee for further review. It was not discussed when it would come back before the board again.
Another piece of property under scrutiny was the former Rhinelander Daily News building that was purchased by the county last Dec. for $160,000. The intent at that time was to expand the parking area for the Department on Health and Aging and to secure an easement that ran through the property. Again the Solid Waste and Buildings and Grounds committee was put in charge of determining how much it would cost to demolish the building and pave the area. The original figure they came up with was $180,000. When the resolution came up on the agenda, Fried immediately wanted to make a couple of amendments to it.
“I want to change the $180,000 to $81,000 and add that the Oneida County Highway Department would complete the parking lot after the demolition is complete,” he said.
The cost breakdown on the resolution included a bid of $38,000 for demolition and $142,000 for engineering, excavation, site preparation, paving and striping of the area.
“The original $180,000 was for everything including the paving,” Brunette said. “We can demo it and get the site ready for winter for $81,000. We can look at bids for paving next year.”
The board agreed to the amendments.