Potential move by Grand Forks Public Health would bring it closer to City Hall – Grand Forks Herald

Potential move by Grand Forks Public Health would bring it closer to City Hall – Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS — In one year, the Grand Forks Public Health Department may move to the new Franklin Fourth Building across the street from City Hall.

The agency has been housed in the Grand Forks County Office Building for more than 20 years. Public health is a joint effort between cities and counties, but the city takes the lead. For years, the city has been working to simplify and centralize operations as part of a 30-year planning scope. This includes consolidating some city departments, as well as moving departments within City Hall to better serve city residents.

Housing public health in county office buildings is governed by a reciprocal lease agreement. When the lease was signed back in 2000, the public health department was located on the second floor of the Police Building on Fifth Street South. As part of the lease, the public health department moved into the new county office building and the Grand Forks County Sheriff moved into the old public health space. Under the current reciprocal lease agreement, the city does not pay rent to the county, and the county does not pay rent to the city.

Now, the city wants more space in the police building for police department and public safety answering point services. Grand Forks Public Health Director Tess Wall said the move also provides new opportunities for public health.

“Just from an efficiency standpoint, it’s an opportunity — we have some technical challenges in the current space,” Wall said. “There are opportunities to utilize public space, whether it’s hosting community education classes or events.”

Some of these technical challenges are who to call for computer or phone issues. Computers are available throughout the city and telephones are available throughout the county. The move will also bring public health closer to City Hall and HIVE’s city meeting space.

Wall said it was important to locate the public health center downtown. It’s close to the community partners they work with, and it’s also more accessible to many people in Grand Forks, especially by bus. The new space will be more public-facing than the existing space.

“One difference between our current layout and the proposed layout is that the proposed layout has two different floors,” Wall said. “(The first floor) will be the public-facing space, and (the second floor) will be more of a corporate space. (It) will definitely have an impact on our workplace culture, which is my biggest concern.”

The proposed layout would feature a street office with inspection and immunization spaces. Most of the public health center will be located on the second floor of the building. About 30 of the 52 employees working in public health will move into the new space.

It will cost the city $1.3 million to prepare the space for public health, according to an estimate provided by Northridge, the developer of Franklin Fourth. The office is just over 10,000 square feet and has a base rent of $202,740. A portion of the $1.3 million will be spread over time and added to the lease payments. Tenants in the building are also required to pay community space maintenance fees. The current public health office space is approximately the same size as this new space.

The Grand Forks City Council, while mostly positive about the move, does want more options.

“This is the only option we’ve presented, and it seems like a lot of money to me,” said City Council member Rebecca Osofsky. “What about the basement (of City Hall)? What does it look like?”

The basement of City Hall is approximately 6,800 square feet. The city is currently renovating about 5,000 square feet of the Hive space that was vacated by the Grand Forks Herald in 2023. Some council members also pointed out that the cost of city construction and a completely new building would be well over $1.3 million.

“Make it 10,000 square feet, it’s not really that much money per square foot compared to what private businesses would have to pay to come into a strip mall,” said Council Member Bret Weber. “It’s a pretty good deal for a lovely new space opposite the town hall.”

Currently, this move has not yet become a reality. The committee has received information about the project and discussed and directed staff, but has not yet made a binding decision on the move. Any binding decisions, such as approving a lease agreement, will be approved by the City Council.

Matthew Voight

Voight covers city government in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *