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Extension to get new home soon with more parking, easier access

The University of Minnesota Extension Service in Becker County has found a new home.

It will move from the Human Services building downtown to 1120 Eighth St. NE in the Detroit Lakes industrial park, where it will occupy the front part of the building that houses the Becker County Workshop, which provides work for the developmentally disabled.

The new site offers easy access and convenient parking -- both drawbacks at the current location, where parking can be hard to find and visitors have to contend with security measures when they enter the Human Services building.

Becker County Auditor-Treasurer Ryan Tangen briefed the County Board prior to its approving the new location on Tuesday.

Tangen said he talked with people involved with Extension and with other Becker County officials and "the consensus is that location is a better fit for Extension than the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) or other locations we looked at -- there is parking within feet of the door and when you walk in, it just has a much better feel to it."

The county had considered moving the DMV -- now located in the courthouse -- to the Washington Square Mall and moving the Extension Service into the vacant courthouse space.

But the board decided the workshop building was a better fit.

"It's very positive," said Commissioner John Okeson. "People can walk in the front door -- there's no security to deal with."

"We hope to have the Extension location finalized and moved in by April 1," Tangen said.

Extension will have about 1,000 square feet of space in its new location, a little more than its current site, and the office will be equipped with new floor coverings, furniture, kitchen appliances and bathrooms.

The Becker County EDA will contribute up to $14,000 towards the remodeling project.

"It also puts someone out front for (handling visitors to) the workshop, they can't supervise the workshop and have someone out front, too," said Commissioner Barry Nelson. "It's the best place we've seen so far. I say move forward with it."

His major concern is that there be enough space for the Master Gardener program.

"If Extension is happy with it, I say go ahead," added Commissioner Gerry Schram.

County Housing Director Jon Thomsen said "once we receive approval to move forward, then we can make the decision on how best to use the space," with input from Extension staff.

The commissioners approved the move unanimously.