County might buy job center for $1.9 million

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Wednesday, July 9, 2014

JANESVILLE—Rock County might spend $1.9 million in an effort to save money over the next 10 years.

On Wednesday, the county's human services committee voted unanimously to buy the Rock County Job Center, a 60,500-square-foot building it had previously leased.

The purchase, which still has to be approved by the full county board, was proposed after the ownership of the building changed hands, explained Phil Boutwell, deputy director of human services.

The job center, 1900 Center Ave., Janesville, is located in Blackhawk Village Shopping Center, a 12-acre parcel that includes the job center and a small strip mall.

The county is considering buying the job center building and the five acres of parking required by the city of Janesville, according to county officials.

Kevin Hendricks and Backyard Properties bought the property in June, and informed the county that the company would be willing to lease it at market rate or sell it to them.

The county now pays $226,875 a year to lease the building. It also pays $18,708 for insurance, $41,124 for property taxes and $31,176 for common area expenses snow plowing.

The lease cost comes to $5.25 a square foot.

The county has received a below market rate for the lease because of improvements it has made to the building, Boutwell said. Those improvements, which were made with state funds, included extensive remodeling to create offices as well as wiring for phone systems and computers.

The county's long-term support division, economic support division and Aging Disability and Resource Center use about half of the building, said Charmian Klyve, human services director.  The remainder of the building is used by job center partners such workforce development agencies and the private company that oversees the state's food FoodShare program.

Backyard Properties' purchase of the building left the county with several options including:

—Buying the property for $1.9 million and paying for it over 15 years.

Annual cost, with insurance and shared expenses: $160,093 or $2.65 a square foot. Cost for the next 10 years would be $1.6 million

—Sign a 10-year-lease with Backyard Properties for $423,500 a year. Annual cost for insurance, property taxes and shared expenses: $514,508 or $8.50 a square foot. Cost for the next 10 years would be $5.14 million

—Find another property.  In the executive summary for the county board, Boutwell noted that moving operations out of the Job Center is “not a good alternative.”

 “It is unlikely the county would find anything near the current lease rate, let alone the purchase price without having to do significant renovations” for technology, phone systems and general office space. The building would also have to have plenty of parking and be on a bus line.

The current location is also well known to the public.

Sally Weaver-Landers, who serves on the committee as a citizen representative, said she was on the county board when the decision was made to put the job center in what used to be a Kmart store. The building's location at the center of the county made it the best choice, she said. 

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