Crow Wing County to take another look at policy allowing leasing of vacant government space
Leasing government space to organizations with compatible missions will be back before the Crow Wing County Board at its April 22 meeting.
The issue came up at a recent board meeting where commissioners expressed concerns that opening vacant office space for rent may mean the county would have to accept any and all comers — even potentially controversial organizations.
Administrator Tim Houle said what the county has been doing was put into a written policy guidelines outlining rates, oversight, and terms. Houle said the idea of leasing space came from the county board’s wishes to increase revenue where possible. The suggested policy notes renting to another government agency or nonprofit would be allowed if the mission is compatible with the county for areas such as safe and efficient transportation, social safety net, environmental protection.
The entire issue came up this month when The Nature Conservancy was looking to lease basement office space in the Land Services Buildings.
Houle said if the board approves the written policy, staff believes The Nature Conservancy would qualify.
In some cases, the county provides space rent free as has been the practice for the county housing the Mississippi Headwaters Board office. The office has been in one of the eight member counties. It is currently is in Crow Wing County.
Central Minnesota Community Corrections is a similar situation with Crow Wing County as the largest member county. For the Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District and community corrections, Crow Wing County cut appropriations to them but provided office space.
Commissioners Rachel Reabe Nystrom and Rosemary Franzen said they were not troubled by The Nature Conservancy, which connects with the county’s environmental protection mission, but they ware troubled by the range in price.
Houle said looking at the space and prices for The Nature Conservancy did raise questions as some organizations were paying for more space than they using and others were using more space than they were paying for.
Houle said charging for all space to recover fixed costs will mean tougher conversations with the organizations like community corrections.
“It’s likely to cause some heartburn with your neighbors,” Houle said, adding if the county pursues this option, the organizations may look at relocating to another member county.
Houle said since Crow Wing County is 50 percent of community corrections it should pay 50 percent and the recover an appropriate portion from the other participating counties — Morrison and Aitkin.
Nystrom said her preference was to have staff come back with a hard proposal they think is fair and equitable.