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Open house Maginnis

Kelly Maginnis, administrative assistant for the Columbia County Land and Water Conservation Department, will be one of many county employees on hand for Saturday's open house and ribbon cutting.

These days, Columbia County Board Chairman Vern Gove has all the enthusiasm and excitement of a child planning a birthday party.

That’s because a project that has consumed $46 million, and more than four years of Gove’s life, is at last winding down, and it’s time to show the public what their tax dollars bought.

Columbia County’s most expansive and expensive building project in history – new Administration and Health and Human Services buildings on opposite sides of the Portage Canal, and the renovation of the 56-year-old courthouse to accommodate modern security needs – will be spotlighted starting at noon Saturday, as all three buildings will be dedicated with a ribbon-cutting, then opened to the public.

Openhouse connector

An enclosed connector bridge across the Portage Canal joins the Columbia County Health and Human Services Building at 111 E. Mullett St., left, and the Administration Building, 112 E. Edgewater St.

An ad hoc committee composed of county elected officials and employees has spent the last three months planning the festivities.

Here’s what’s in store:

  • A welcome to all by Supervisor Matt Rohrbeck of Portage, who will be master of ceremonies
  • Presentation of the colors by American Legion members from throughout Columbia County
  • Cambria-Friesland High School graduate Delaney Agnew singing “The Star-Spangled Banner”
  • Remarks by a variety of dignitaries
  • Ribbon-cutting ceremonies at each of the buildings: The Administration Building, 112 E. Edgewater St.; the Health and Human Services Building, 111 E. Mullett St.; and the Columbia County Courthouse, 400 DeWitt St.
  • Open house and tours, with refreshments, at all three buildings.

The array of speakers confirmed for the event include Gove, Portage Mayor Rick Dodd, Wisconsin Counties Association Executive Director Mark O’Connell, Columbia County employees Katie Day and Becky Mulhern and a representative of Columbia County’s Future Leaders Active in Government program for high school juniors and seniors.

The speakers’ rostrum also will include representatives from the two Madison companies that were instrumental in the project: Beth Prochaska, executive vice president of the design firm Potter-Lawson, and Dave Beck-Engel, president of the construction firm J.H. Findorff and Sons.

The events will start in the Market Square parking lot on East Edgewater Street, across the street from the Administration Building.

They’ll continue inside the buildings.

County Clerk Susan Moll said she’d be among the county employees whose offices will be open Saturday. Visitors to the clerk’s office, on the first floor of the Administration Building, will see the public waiting area, where people who come to the office – such as couples seeking marriage licenses – can wait for service.

Also, Moll said, she plans to present visitors with information about county tourism and how to register to vote.

On the Administration Building’s second floor, Kelly Maginnis, administrative assistant at the Columbia County Land and Water Conservation Department, will be among the employees on hand to show the public some of the work the department does, including assisting farmers with conservation and environmental improvements and holding an annual tree sale in April.

Her boss, Kurt Calkins, will be there, too, although he’s likely to split his time between the two county offices he now runs – Land and Water Conservation and, just down the hall on the second floor, Planning and Zoning.

Chances are, too, that visitors will meet their county supervisors. Gove has asked as many of the 28 supervisors as possible to be on hand for the event, and some of them may be stationed at the departments they oversee on County Board governing committees.

Follow Lyn Jerde on Twitter @LynJerde or contact her at 608-745-3587.


Portage Daily Register Reporter