HANCOCK - Michigan state officials are moving the Department of Human Services Houghton County office from Hancock to the Copper Country Mall in Portage Township, which Glenn Anderson said will be both a loss and opportunity for the city.
Anderson, who is Hancock city manager, said in 2012 representatives of the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget began considering moving the DHS office in the former D & N Bank building on Quincy Street. In October 2012, the DTMB asked for Requests for Proposals to contractors for a new DHS building with 12,600 square feet of office space and 60 on-site parking spaces in Hancock or Houghton.
Anderson said that first RFP limited a Hancock location to downtown, which didn't have any sites able to meet those space requirements.
Daily Mining Gazette/Kurt Hauglie
An artist’s rendering of what the outside facade of the new DHS office in the Copper Country Mall will look like is displayed in the Copper Country Mall where construction of the interior of the new facility is current going on.
After discussions with state officials, Anderson said a new RFP was put out in March 2013, which included all of Hancock as well as Houghton.
The D & N building is owned by Houghton County, and in a January 2013 Gazette article about the decision to move the DHS to a new location, State Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet, said the state pays $80,000 a year in rent, which will be a significant loss of revenue to the county.
Kurt Weiss, spokesman for DTMB, said that agency handles real estate issues for all Michigan state government agencies. Officials with DHS came to DTMB because the D & N building was too small for their needs.
The new DHS location is expected to be operational by the end of February, Weiss said. The lease for the D & N building will expire on April 3. The new location will be leased from the owners of Copper Country Mall.
Anderson said the DHS has been in Hancock for about 50 years. The first office was in the Scott Building.
It moved to 116 Quincy St., then to its current location in the D & N building, which was constructed in 1939 with an addition onto the rear of the building constructed in 1959.
There have been upgrades to the building in recent years, including and elevator and new roof, Anderson said.
The employees of the DHS provide important revenue for the city, Anderson said, because they shop at the businesses and eat in the restaurants downtown.
Clients of the DHS support downtown businesses, also.
"They also shop," he said.
Although he's disappointed the DHS is moving from Hancock, Anderson said it could prove helpful. "There's an opportunity for a reuse of a very good building," he said. "It's in great shape."
Anderson said the Houghton County Board of Commissioners will have to vote on whether or not to sell the D & N Bank building, and he expects someone will want it.
"I have confidence they will be able to sell the building," he said.