Faced with overcrowding and a $300 million facilities projects backlog, El Paso County officials have been scouring the city in hopes of finding attractive lease rates and newer buildings to house up to three of its departments.
Deputy County Administrator Monnie Gore has been weighing options for a Health Department move, based largely on the high cost to renovate its existing building at 301 S. Union Blvd.
Cost estimates to rid the building of asbestos and to replace a failed HVAC system that caused the loss of thousands of dollars of vaccines last year already exceed the $600,000 set aside for the project.
But El Paso County Commission Chairman Dennis Hisey said that’s not the only county department in need of new quarters.
“Have you ever toured the Coroner’s office? It’s a real eye-opener,” he said. “They’ve got just one ventilation system down there. Some days the smell is bad, just walking in the front door,” he said.
The coroner’s facility is located across the street from the Criminal Justice Center at 2473 E. Las Vegas Street.
“With 20 people on staff, lab space and the morgue, they’re already desk-bunking,” he said, adding that court-required laboratory samples have to be stored in a shed outside the main building. Short of space, the department’s security computer is housed in a shower stall.
A third agency, the Department of Human Services offices at 105 N. Spruce Street is large enough, but has parking issues.
“It’s not as old as the Health Department building which dates back to the 1950s,” Hisey said. “But it’s almost impossible to find parking in the lot. Almost every week someone parks in the Denny’s lot next door and gets a $50 ticket.”
He said the commissioners have advised the county’s real estate broker that the time is right to consider buying or leasing new space.
While the former Intel campus is easily accessed from Interstate 25, is centrally located and on a bus route, no lease discussions are under way yet.
“Right now we’re just looking at what’s out there and how it could meet our needs,” he said.