County makes progress on HRA's new homeSitting in his office Wednesday afternoon, Jeff Schiffman is counting down the days. The executive director of the Douglas County Housing and Redevelopment Authority said the agency is nearing completion of its latest building project, albeit a couple months behind schedule.
By: Mike Enright, Alexandria Echo Press
Sitting in his office Wednesday afternoon, Jeff Schiffman is counting down the days.
The executive director of the Douglas County Housing and Redevelopment Authority said the agency is nearing completion of its latest building project, albeit a couple months behind schedule.
After more than 13 years at its current office at 713 Elm Street, Douglas County HRA is moving.
Or it will be, once its new home – a remodeled commercial building located at 122 North Nokomis Street – is finished.
The HRA provides several programs to area residents, including affordable rental housing, new development facilitation and homeowner rehabilitation assistance.
Originally set to wrap up this month, construction has stalled a bit due to recent cold weather, Schiffman said, but he’s hopeful the agency will be able to move in by March.
So are other county officials, who are already drawing up plans about how to use the space once HRA is completely moved out.
“They’ve been in here measuring two times a week,” Schiffman said with a laugh.
On Tuesday, Douglas County commissioners approved a plan allowing the county’s social services department to take over HRA’s current office.
In exchange, social services will transfer some of its current offices to the county’s public health department.
“It looks like we will be moving our child support division into the old HRA space when it is free,” said Mike Woods, social services director. “That will free up space for public health in some other areas.”
Both agencies have said for some time that they need more room, and both had expressed interest in the HRA office.
A need for more room is also why HRA is moving, said Al Glaeseman, the agency’s assistant director.
“We have basically outgrown this space,” Glaeseman said about HRA’s current 1,500 square-foot office.
Over the years, he said, HRA has had to increase its staff and programming to try and keep pace with the growing need for its services, and do so while operating out of the same size work space since 1995.
The current office doesn’t have a conference room, Schiffman said, which would be helpful when staff need to meet with program participants or applicants, or when the agency has its monthly staff meeting.
To date, he said, HRA has had to borrow other departments’ conference rooms for those meetings, usually from the University of Minnesota Extension office.
“Sometimes we get bumped,” Schiffman said.
HRA’s current accommodations are also short on storage space, according to Schiffman, and the agency has to rent two off-site facilities to house all its documents.
Glaeseman said all of those issues should be resolved once HRA moves into its new office, which at roughly 3,000 square feet is twice as big as its current space.
“There are a lot of positives to the whole move,” he said.