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Peoria County Board approves additional funds for new HHS campus, paving way for construction to begin

A rendering of the new Peoria County Health and Human Services campus. It will be built on the site of the current health department on Sheridan Rd. in Peoria.
Farnsworth Group rendering
A rendering of the new Peoria County Health and Human Services campus. It will be built on the site of the current health department on Sheridan Rd. in Peoria.

Peoria County will allocate an additional $7.8 million to lock in a price for construction of the new Health and Human Services Campus.

The county board originally budgeted $14 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds for the building in 2021. But costs have increased as inflation and supply chain issues persist.

Much of the discussion happened at a special meeting of the county's health committee, ahead of a special county board meeting Wednesday.

Terry Ruhland, a Republican from Chillicothe, was the board liaison on the project planning who assisted with value engineering efforts.

"The attitude among this group in the planning process, at least among the part I was involved with, has been more than responsible in doing their part to keep the costs down," he said.

River City Construction agreed to a guaranteed maximum construction price of $18.6 million for the new HHS campus. Total costs for the project are estimated at $22.3 million, with $4.7 million coming from health department reserve funds. An additional $2.6 million will be redirected from the county's remaining ARPA funds, and the remaining $500,000 comes from the county General Fund's Capital Project Fund.

Peoria County received $34.8 million in ARPA funds. About $19.6 million is now going toward the HHS campus.

The new health and human services campus will be constructed on the site of the current Peoria City/County Health Department, 2116 N. Sheridan Road in Peoria. The new campus will include the health department, coroner's office, regional superintendent's office, and the county Sustainability and Resource Conservation Department.

The original concept called for a two-building campus, but when cost estimates came in at $28 million, the campus plans were consolidated and downscaled.

Three county board members voted against the funding. Dissenting members agreed the health department and coroner's office in particular need better buildings, but they noted the project is coming in over budget.

Board member Steve Rieker said the condition of the current facilities is "unacceptable," adding the county needs a better facilities maintenance plan going forward.

"We can see that we in the past have not spent the funds and done the work to take care of the public's facilities. The reality in neglecting the public's facilities has cost us more than proper maintenance would have," he said.

County board member Paul Rosenbohm also voted against it, echoing Rieker.

Board member Brian Elsasser said he thinks the county moved too fast on new construction, and should have more seriously considered refurbishing an existing building for less money.

"I'm not against spending some money, but I am very disappointed in the process. I'm very disappointed that we had a groundbreaking ceremonybefore we even had bids. I'm disappointed that we moved everybody out before we even had bids and now we're we're getting the language that we need to get going, you know, because we're paying rent," he said.

Peoria County Coroner Jamie Harwood said the new campus is needed to provide adequate public services. He said his current building on Gift Avenue doesn't do that, noting that water was leaking into the morgue as recently as Tuesday.

"We're all elected to serve our public. And we're elected to serve our public and to fiscally responsibly do that. And (health department administrator) Monica (Hendrickson) has demonstrated that. I have. (Peoria County Regional Superintendent) Beth (Crider) has," he said. "And we would like to continue doing what we do in an evidence based best practice model, in a building that supports that premise."

Crider said her office's employees are currently split up. The new space would allow all of them to work together in the same space.

"That would be quite honestly, a dream come true. I'm not so caught up in the paint colors or the carpet as much as that I could look across the hall and see my professional learning team. I might cry," she said.

Construction on the new HHS campus is expected to begin in May.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.