Kandiyohi County to take $100,000 deep dive into condition of buildings


— When people think of buildings owned by Kandiyohi County, places such as the Law Enforcement Center, Health and Human Services Building and the downtown County Office Building, all in Willmar, might spring to mind.

However, the county owns facilities across the county including in all the county parks,

Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center

, Glacial Lakes Sanitary Sewer and Water District and Prairie Lakes Youth Programs.

These buildings, and all the mechanical systems inside them, need to be maintained. That can be a challenge, given that facilities were built at different times, and have different needs.

To help keep track of all those needs, Andy Thorson, facility maintenance director, at the Sept. 5

Kandiyohi County Board

meeting, requested the board approve a contract with Brightly to complete a full facilities condition assessment — an expenditure that will top $100,000.

"We've never done one," Thorson said. "It is huge for my tool box and for the County Board, for administration ... they'd have all this information at their fingertips."

The assessment, which was approved by the board, would see a team of professionals assess the conditions of all the county's buildings. Each building — from its foundations to its windows and doors and into its electrical and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems — would be graded on a seven-point scale.

"Basically it is them nitpicking our buildings," Thorson said.

The assessment would then be turned into an interactive report that would tell county staff what needs to be done to improve the condition of each building, a timeline to complete repairs and upgrades and estimated costs.

The report would also include information on the individual systems and equipment in the buildings, such as elevators or furnaces, and provide information about maintenance and when a system should be replaced.

As the county completes repairs or installs replacements, the facilities condition report can be updated. This allows for a better handle on what needs to be done and when.

"So we are not doing hodgepodge things throughout the year; this is a more planned process," Thorson said, which will be a major benefit when budgeting from year to year.

Thorson was directed by the facilities committee to look into having the assessment done. Luckily, Thorson already works with Brightly for his maintenance software, and so the company has already been vetted and approved by the purchasing cooperative of which Kandiyohi County is a part. This means the county doesn't have to go out for multiple bids.

"A lot of counties and larger cities do these facility condition assessments on a regular basis," Thorson said.

The county is already undertaking a space needs analysis for the Health and Human Services Building, because staff members are running out of room. Doing a conditions assessment around the same time made sense.

"I would emphasize the importance of having a facility and a space analysis done," said Kandiyohi County Administrator Kelsey Baker, who said she was surprised to learn Kandiyohi County hadn't already done such an assessment. "I think it is good guidance. They are county buildings and we want to take care of them."

That being said, the price for the assessment did raise a few of the commissioners' eyebrows. The initial assessment and report has a price tag of $100,713, plus about $10,000 a year in software costs.

Funding for the assessment would come from the county building fund. Commissioner Roger Imdieke wanted the board to take some time to look at other options or see if there would be a way to reduce the scope of work.

"It has been this long we haven't had one, if we have to wait over winter to do some more investigating," Imdieke said.

However, the majority of the board, in a voice vote, approved the contract.

"I think it is a good planning tool. Things have changed; the world has changed. If we don't start doing this kind of stuff, I think we are going to get beat up," said Commissioner Dale Anderson. "We hire good people to do good things. I trust Andy and Kelsey that they have come up with what they need to do for this."