Everyone agrees on this: When Washington County residents visit their government building in Stillwater to do business, they often don't know where to go.

A reconstruction of the south wing of the sprawling campus will fix that, said Erik Jalowitz, who manages the project for the county.

The remodeling of the first floor, which begins March 22, means that one of the county's largest and business-intensive services -- Property Records and Taxpayer Services -- will be able to return to the government campus after being temporarily housed at a Stillwater strip mall.

The reconstruction is part of a $59.6 million makeover of the entire 28-acre Washington County campus. Late last summer, a new courts building and three new floors atop the Law Enforcement Center (LEC) opened.

"We are on schedule, we are on budget still, so everything is going as planned, which is all you can ask for," Jalowitz said.

The "Campus 2025" expansion is intended to equip the county -- which is nearing a quarter million residents and expects 140,000 more by 2025 -- with suitable space for another two decades. It includes space for six more courtrooms to be finished later.

County buildings constructed in the 1970s and 1980s -- now somewhat outmoded and often overcrowded -- were built for growth in their time and served the county well, said Don Theisen, the county's chief engineer.

County officials have expressed concern about the current layout of the south wing, where people enter an atrium and often seem lost. A customer service window sits behind a pillar on one side of the atrium and people sometimes have trouble finding it, despite directional signs.

In the new design, visitors will enter to find a prominent customer service counter, Jalowitz said.

Before remodeling begins, the county's five commissioners will move to a new boardroom on the fifth, or top, floor, and will hold their first board meeting there on March 23.

Remodeling has led to a series of moves for several county departments. Community Corrections, for example, moved from the fifth floor of the south wing to the third floor, and will move to the second floor of the north wing once work is completed there. Information technology, the county attorney's office, and accounting and finance all have moved to new offices in the LEC building.

Remodeling on the north wing -- the courts' former home -- will create a permanent entrance to the new courthouse, Jalowitz said. More parking will be added on the south end of the campus when a construction staging area is removed.

Construction is scheduled to end in late 2011.

Kevin Giles • 612-673-4432