Editorial: Tap general fund to raze Brown County Mental Health Center

9:10 PM, Feb. 8, 2013  |  Comments
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The Brown County Mental Health Center has been unemployed for four years - ever since the Community Treatment Center, 3150 Gershwin Drive, Green Bay, opened.

There has been talk in the past of taking the wrecking ball to the old buildings, but that talk has gone nowhere because of a lack of money or lack of agreement on what should be done.

Brown County finally appears closer to a solution but hasn't decided who should do it. We recommend the county should quickly decide whether it can do the demolition or whether to bid it out. Either way, for financial and developmental reasons, the county should raze the structure this year and not waste anymore time.

The demise of the center has been talked about for more than a decade. A new center has been built in that time and now the buildings and grounds of the old center stand in limbo, unwanted and not moving forward while all around it, development is taking place.

Two years ago, the county considered using it as a facility for veterans, so demolition was delayed. The county sent out a request for offers and received no interest. It seems obvious that no one wants to deal with aging structures that need to be brought up to building codes of the 21st century.

Meanwhile, development around it continues. A new Veterans Administration hospital is being built on land near nearby, and a facility to house homeless military veterans is planned for land adjacent to the old center on St. Anthony Drive in Green Bay.

Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach envisions a research technology park to encourage business investment and entrepreneurship on the site of the old mental health center.

That's a great idea. We're sure there are other great ideas. But any idea would call for the demolition of the old center. We believe trying to develop the county-owned land in the area - about 200 acres total, including the 37-acre old mental health center - would be easier without the old center standing there, its presence impeding progress.

Right now the county is trying to decide whether to have its Public Works Department do the work or contract it out. The problem with contracting it out, though, is that the county has already said what it thinks it would cost to raze the site, up to $2 million, so you can pretty much assume bids will be at least that much.

The problem with the Public Works Department doing the work is that demolition is not its specialty. It provides major services like maintenance and light construction, but razing buildings and dealing with asbestos in old structures may not be in its wheelhouse.

The county has the money to contract out this work, and it should. At budget time, Brown County boasted a surplus in the general fund. They should use some of that money to open the site for development.

If you remember, in November 2010, officials talked about razing the mental health center, but the county couldn't because it had to use $1.7 million from the general fund to balance the budget. Today, the county's general fund is $22 million - more $4 million above the upper limit of for the fund.

Brown County should use some of that money to make the site attractive to development by razing the buildings so we're not here two years from now again calling for action.

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