ST. GEORGE — Washington County and other civic officials gathered near the corner of 100 East and Tabernacle Street in St. George on Tuesday afternoon for the groundbreaking of the county’s new administration building.
Set to stand four stories tall and be an estimated 142,000 square feet with a parking garage underneath, the new county building will be one of the largest government buildings south of Sandy, Washington County Commission Chair Gil Almquist said during the groundbreaking event.
“It will be a center for all of our county government, as well as the services that are provided,” Almquist said. “Right now, we’ve grown out of our old building.”
The original Washington County Administration Building, which sits on the same block directly east of the groundbreaking site, was built in 1966 and housed the majority of the county’s departments at the time. The building also served as a courthouse, juvenile jail and also housed the sheriff’s office.
However, as the county grew, so did the county’s departments, with the assessor and recorder’s offices and information technology department having since moved into the county’s Boulevard Office Building on the northeast corner of the block. The new building will bring those and other departments under one roof for the convenience of county residents, with room to spare for future expansion.
“For the vast majority of services, they’ll be able to come to one building and get (what they need) accomplished,” Almquist said.
The building is estimated to cost the county $24 million – an amount, he said, the county has been saving and gradually adding to over the last 20 years.
The County Commission approved funding for the new county building last month as a part of the 2021 budget, shortly before the old Zions Bank building – which used to house the Red Cliff’s Desert Reserve’s visitor center – was torn down.
The county’s various departments have been saving a small portion of their annual budgets, which was added to an overall fund that is now being used to pay for the construction of the new administration building free of any loans the county would have had to obtain otherwise.
Almquist and other commissioners have given credit to County Clerk/Auditor Kim Hafen for keeping tabs on the county’s funds up to this point, though Hafen said he himself was a minor player in this endeavor.
“They all had the vision at some point, and now it has come to fruition,” he said. “There’s a long list of people responsible and I’m the least of them.”
The credit goes to commissioners past and present, Hafen said, adding that there has been talk about the need for a new administration building for over 10 years. Plans had been made to move forward on the project over the year but hadn’t started to take root until around two years ago when county officials lined up the teams to design and build the new building.
Like the commissioners and others who work for the county, Hafen said he is looking forward to moving into the new building once its finished.
“It’s going to be great because now we aren’t going to be stuck between the Boulevard building and the old administration building,” he said.
Also to be housed in the new county administration building will be the Red Cliff’s Desert Reserve’s visitor center and administrative office, as well as the Greater Zion Tourism Office. Both will be on the first floor. The first floor has been designed be welcoming to visitors and house displays that show off the beauty of the region, Almquist said.
The design of the new building is meant to help enhance St. George’s downtown area while also blending in with the pioneer-era aesthetic that both newer and renovated buildings in the area have adopted over the years.
“We wanted something the enhanced and didn’t take away from the natural beauty of the area,” County Commissioner Victor Iverson said. “This building is going to be well served and planned.”
Services that will remain separate from the new county building include the Washington County Attorney’s Office, court support services and the county’s road department.
It is hoped that the new building, which is anticipated to be completed by September 2022, will serve the county for the next 50 to 100 years.
“This building will last longer than any one of us on this earth,” Washington County Administrator and Project Manager Nicholle Felshaw said. “We’re really doing this for future generations.”
As for the original county administration building, Felshaw said it will most likely be torn down at some point in the future once the new one is built. Additionally, the county is also planning to build a parking structure at some point near the new county building, she said.
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