The Dallas County Human Services Campus (HSC) — new name of the newly repurposed building formerly known as the Dallas County Care Facility Inc. and the erstwhile county poor farm — began receiving its first permanent occupants Wednesday when social workers with the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) started arranging their work spaces.
The $3 million renovation project has come in almost exactly on time and on budget. In order to avoid cost overruns, Jerry Purdy, the project’s lead architect and founder of Waukee-based Design Alliance, closely supervised the work of Larson and Larson Construction of Urbandale, the general contractor for the project. The Dallas County Board of Supervisors were also hawk-like in their vigilance over the details of prices.
When fully settled, the HSC will house the county-level administrative offices of the DHS and four county departments: the Dallas County Public Health Department, Dallas County Environmental Health Department, Dallas County Community Services Department, which includes Case Management, Mental Health/Developmental Disabilities and General Assistance, and the Dallas County Emergency Management Services.
The Dallas County Sheriff’s office will also house its dispatch center in the HSC at 25747 N Ave. in rural Dallas County.
Repurposing the former care facility buys the county very little breathing room in its pursuit of more space for county services, according to Dallas County Board of Supervisors Chair Brad Golightly.
“These space needs haven’t changed even with the addition of the old care facility,” Golightly said.
The fastest-growing county in Iowa, Dallas County has seen its population triple over the last 25 years. Now standing at 80,000, the population is projected to double in size again in the next 25 years, rising to almost 160,000 by 2040.
More people means more demand for county services, and more services means more counties employees to perform them, including public safety employees. But the county long ago ran out of room to house its own workforce and has been leasing buildings in downtown Adel in order to perform its basic functions.
County voters have steadfastly refused to pay for a new law enforcement center or new administrative offices or any combination of the two. Larger facilities will eventually be built but at a higher cost than taxpayers would pay to build them now. The new HSC at least ensures the county and state workers who deliver human and social services will have rooms adequate to county residents’ needs for the next 25 years.
Surrounding the HSC are the 526 acres of farmlands, woodlands and wetlands of the former county farm, the largest such holding of any county in Iowa. The Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) agronomy department has leased the farmland, barns and stockyards since 2005 and holds a three-year lease running through March 2017.
DMACC pays about $60,000 a year to lease 250 acres of cropland, 84 acres of pasture and the various buildings, storage and equipment of the farm. The DMACC agribusiness program conducts weekly labs there, covering farm operations such as planting, harvesting and daily animal care. About a dozen seed companies also grow on a variety of test plots and competition plots on the farm.