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Human services building in works

Benton County commissioners have decided to spend $228,000 on a remodeling project so Benton Franklin Human Services administration can have a new home in Kennewick by the end of April.

Commissioners Shon Small and Leo Bowman voted Monday to accept the bid from Siefken and Sons of Richland to build walls and finish offices on the second floor of the Benton Franklin Health District building within 90 days. Commissioner Jim Beaver was not at the meeting.

"They need to make the move. Time is of the essence," said Roy Rogers, the county's facilities manager.

Getting out of leased space will save the two counties about $40,000 a year and provide Benton County the cash it needs to help pay down bond debt, said Loretta Kelty Smith, deputy county administrator.

Commissioners decided last year they didn't want to continue paying the nearly $100,000 a year in leased offices on West Deschutes Avenue, when there was unfinished space available on the second floor of the Health District building.

The four bids submitted for the project were higher than the architect's estimate of about $190,000. Since the lowest was more than $200,000, which is the limit on the county's policy for small project costs, commissioners had to make a one-time exception in awarding the bid.

The annual lease of the Deschutes Avenue building was $65,000, but Human Services is paying more now because the lease expired and the month-to-month cost is 25 percent higher, Kelty Smith said.

The new office space will be smaller and less expensive for Human Services, costing about $65,000 a year, which includes money to reimburse the county for the upfront remodeling costs.

Having a new tenant will help Benton County pay off construction bonds for the Health District building, which was originally designed to have the Benton Clean Air Authority occupy the second floor. But when the authority chose to set up offices elsewhere, the county was stuck having to use other county money to pay $50,000 a year toward bond debt.

Kelty Smith said Human Services administration's lease payments now will offset that annual payment, freeing up the county's $50,000 for other purposes.

Also Monday, commissioners agreed to delay adopting an animal control ordinance before seeing the animal control center construction project completed.

Larry Taylor, who retired as sheriff to become the county's animal control manager, recommended not enacting the ordinance before the facility was ready to accept impounded dogs.

Adopting the ordinance would "trigger enforcement," he said.

But commissioner Bowman said he wants no delay in seeing the law enforced as soon as possible. He also asked how the public would know that the animal control center is only for dogs, not cats.

Taylor said the ordinance itself specifically discusses dogs. "If a year from now we wanted to include feral cats we could do that," he said.

Rogers said the goal is to have the building ready for use by early February.