Commissioners asked for help with behavorial health move

The logistics of moving county entities into new offices on Gilman Avenue were discussed during Thursday morning’s Washington County Commission meeting.

Flite Freimann, executive director of the Washington County Job and Family Services, and David Browne, executive director of the Washington County Board of Behavioral Health, went before the commission with concerns about moving Behavorial Health into the Gilman Avenue offices.

“We’re here to solicit the sense of the board on some concerns that Mr. Browne and I have as we start moving forward and so this encompasses two different areas,” Freimann said. “The actual physical move itself and getting the behavioral board moved in (is the first). The second touches upon the long-term relationship between behavioral health and whoever will be the lead tenant in the building.”

He said he wanted to start a dialogue on the subject and then come back to next week’s commission meeting with a Memorandum of Understanding for their approval.

The Gilman Avenue building is ready for tenants, with the exception of internet access, which will be added early next week.

“The immediate question for the board is certainly Job and Family Services is wanting to assist in the move in any way possible,” Freimann said, noting the behavioral health board is not able to move to the new offices without help.

“I was told originally this would be ‘revenue neutral.’ So, is there anything you guys can do to help us make this move, pull this move off, if we contract outside?” Browne asked the commissioners. “Are there internal people we can use, internal trucks, equipment or resources?”

Browne said his intent with meeting with the board was to get the discussion going on moving into the building.

The organizational moves will take several steps.

The first step is for the Board of Behavioral Health to move from 204 Davis Ave. to the second floor of 1115 Gilman Ave. The second step is for the Board of Commissioners to move from 204 Davis Ave., to the second floor of 1115 Gilman Ave.

“Both should take place in July,” Freimann said.

The changes are a result of a merger between Children Services and Job and Family Services, meaning those two agencies will be located in the same building.

When those first two moves happen, JFS will occupy the entire first floor of the Davis Avenue complex, he added.

The final location for the Board of Elections, also at 204 Davis Ave., has not been determined. Freimann said there were two caveats to their move – they wanted an acceptable space that met their requirements, and they wanted to move after the certification of the November 2020 presidential election. At that point, all of JFS would be located at 204 Davis Ave.

“I want to work with you folks. I’m willing to be the first domino to fall beside you guys to make the move because somebody’s got to move so that we can get to that facility and get to where the next one can go in,” Browne said. “Usually I’m the last in line because usually, when you’re last in line, things are going smoothly.”

He added he is concerned about the long-term effects of being in a building with multiple tenants.

Freimann said the second part of why they wanted to speak to commissioners is that “it is my recommendation that there is, as we get into multiple tenants, that there is a MoU between the various entities.”

He said the MoU would divide up how much rent each tenant would pay based on the square footage of each organization’s office space. His suggestion is to have a sub-lease to the behavioral health office. That way, JFS would technically be the landlord and could provide services to the behavioral health office, such as front office or IT assistance.

Freimann said JFS and the behavioral board have a good relationship, but that he would feel better with a formal arrangement.

“If we do not have a formal arrangement, with the volatility of the seats on this board of commission, you could find yourself in a really bad situation,” Commissioner Ron Feathers said. “You still could, because an MoU could change at a moment’s notice, however it would show historical and institutional intent that would be a hard precedent to overcome.”

Feathers asked what Browne’s fears were and Browne said maintenance of the building. He was concerned about snow removal and how things would be allocated between the tenants.

“As far as the maintenance staff, the county maintenance is still going to take over. The snow removal, nothing is going to change. The parking lot, all that. It’s going to be the responsibility of the county,” Feathers said.

Freimann added, “similar to our MoU with the state, he will lease his portion, JFS is the lead tenant in that building and will maintain responsibility for snow removal, maintenance, toilets, fixing lights, that sort of thing.”

He explained that when JFS finally moves from Gilman Avenue, they would assign the MoU to the board of commissioners, who would then take responsibility for building, just as JFS had.

In other commission news:

• A notice of commencement and a notice to proceed with the Terri Lane lift-station improvement project were sent to the commissioners. The project, which has been in the works for at least six months, was estimated to cost $177,250, but the cost has increased by about $100,000.

“The project was originally estimated with $100,000 and somehow came in at $274,000,” said Feathers.

Commissioners signed the contract with ADR and Associates, LTD, to begin work, with Larry Lang Excavating of Beverly as the contractor.

• Four bids were received for renovations on the Washington County Law Library, located on the first floor of the county courthouse. The architect for the renovations is Sixmo, Inc. of Marietta.

The first bid was from T&M Contractors of Macksburg with a base bid of $192,673. The second bid was from Promanco of Marietta with a base bid of $189,016. The third bid was from Grae-Con Construction of Marietta with a base cost of $197,967. The fourth bid was from Foremost Management Inc. of Jackson, and the base cost was for $267,348.

Dates to remember:

• Finance Committee, 10 a.m. June 25 in Annex Conference Room A.

• Regular weekly meeting, 9 a.m. July 3.

• Courthouse closed, July 4, Independence Day.

• Monthly meeting at County Home, 8:30 a.m. July 9.