Hood River County employees will soon be able to undertake their duties without skirting around boxes of old records.
On Thursday, the county was granted a conditional use permit to create offices for 34 workers in the Dean Building, at Sixth and State streets. That move is expected to free up courthouse space for judicial and law enforcement services.
The 33,000 square foot building at 601 State St. was purchased from Sprint for $1.7 million last June. In order to come up with funding for that acquisition, the county borrowed from its $12 million account for timber harvest receipts and will repay that loan with two percent interest over a 10-year period, according to Dave Meriwether, county administrator.
“We are just out of room in the courthouse overall and this will help us center all of our administrative and record keeping functions,” Meriwether said.
He said the county is currently forced to pay $10,000 per year to lease office space from the Port of Hood River in order to house veteran and probation supervision services — an expenditure that can soon be eliminated.
Dean Guess, director of parks and buildings, estimates that the renovation of 22,300 square feet will cost about $275,000. He said the majority of the work will be performed by county employees and the community corrections crew, and is scheduled to be completed by June. Some of the remaining footage will continue to be used for emergency dispatch and about 8,000 square feet has been leased by Sprint for a communication center.
He said the remodeling project will be finished about the same time as the $4 million new library so its temporary headquarters on the ground floor will be empty as county employees begin the move.
Guess said the project involves dividing the open space on three floors into individual offices, upgrading the heating system, and adding restrooms on each level that accommodate people with disabilities. In addition, he said space will be set aside for storage of archived tax and financial records which are currently piled in the corner of virtually every county office.
“Several of our departments are operating with really tight space right now and this should solve that problem,” said Guess.