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Move-in day approaches for new Community Services Building

As the 40,000-square-foot silhouette of Carlton County's new Community Services Building emerged on the horizon of downtown Cloquet over the past several months, many motorists gave it only a passing glance. It wasn't until the structure's stunni...

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As the 40,000-square-foot silhouette of Carlton County's new Community Services Building emerged on the horizon of downtown Cloquet over the past several months, many motorists gave it only a passing glance. It wasn't until the structure's stunning brick, stone and glass facade began to take shape in recent weeks that people really began to sit up and take notice. Now, a series of move-in dates has been set for the various county departments that will soon call the building home, and it will officially be open for business on Monday, Aug. 29.

A grand opening event will be set for some time in September.

According to move coordinator Deb Bahen, public health personnel currently housed at the 30 10th St. building will move into the new building on Friday, Aug. 26, along with the staffs of the Motor License Bureau and the Veterans' Service Office. On Saturday, human services personnel from the building at 1101 Avenue B will make the move, followed by the Child Support offices currently housed at the Carlton County Law Enforcement Center on Sept. 9.

The Carlton County Workforce Center, which will be leasing space in the new building from the county, will likely make the move in mid-September.

Following the move into the new building, the old Carlton County Human Services building (once home to Disco Foods) is slated for demolition Sept. 26 to make room for additional parking. Bahen said prior to that day, the county will conduct a slow, thorough dismantling of much of the interior of the building according to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards, including testing for asbestos, lead and mercury and recycling of as much of the metal and other materials as possible.

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"We are going to work really hard at achieving LEED certification," said Bahen, adding that demolition of the old building is considered part of the process, along with adapting environmentally conscious practices and materials in the new building.

To that end, she said no paper products will be used in the lunch rooms of the new building, and cleaning products will all be biodegradable and environmentally safe. Conduit has been installed to outlets in a series of parking spaces that can eventually be used for recharging electric cars. The building's lighting system is designed to automatically come on as a person enters a room and go off as they exit in order to save energy. In the main lobby and throughout various other parts of the building, reclaimed wood from a site in Superior has been used to enhance the building's interior.

Bahen pointed out that the county departments identified as having the most walk-in traffic are located on the first floor, including income maintenance and public health services for children and families (including the WIC clinic), as well as the Driver's License Bureau and the Veterans' Services Office. The Workforce Center will be located in the east wing of the first floor.

The balance of the offices will be housed on the second floor, including social services, child support, administration/accounting and public health services for long-term care. There will also be a large conference room located on the second floor that can be divided into smaller spaces as well.

Bahen said one of the outstanding features of the new building for the public is that it will be "very nice and private," with doors on the interview rooms (unlike in the old human services building, where clients were interviewed in open cubicles). She said the space will also be more efficient for both staff and the public, with traffic flow patterns and accessibility carefully thought out and taken into consideration in the construction.

As far as benefits to the staff, she said one of the primary factors will be having all of the county public health and human services personnel under one roof, as well as more meeting space, better opportunities for communication and enhanced security.

The telephone numbers for the various departments will remain the same, though the address will change to 14 N. 11th St.

Total cost of the new building, including land acquisition and site development, was $9.5 million.

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