Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, January 11, 1999

Schematic design approved for McLeod courthouse renovations

By Russell Victorian

The McLeod County Board of Commissioners agreed to move forward with courthouse renovations at its Dec. 29 board meeting in the courthouse.

Michael Cox of Wold architects of St. Paul said Wold will begin the design development phase now that the schematic design has been approved.

The schematic design phase is essentially a design concept that fits with the intended purposes with some of the details yet to be worked out, Cox said. In other words, a design of the courthouse renovations that would fulfill the county's needs (goals).

The county's short-term goals to be met with the estimated $2.5 million renovation are:

  • Fully utilize all spaces with the existing facilities.
  • Provide for an additional judgeship and appropriate (14-member jury) courtroom.
  • Ensure all short-term planning supports the county's long-term plan.

Other objectives include having a safe and user-friendly courthouse, according to the Wold schematic design plan.

The long-term goals are to establish long-term facilities for administration, justice and social services and allow for ease of future growth, according to the schematic design plan.

The $2.5 million renovation includes almost $2.1 million in construction costs, with at least $35,000 in construction costs for the north complex; $150,000 in furniture and fixtures; $190,000 in soft costs, such as architectural fees, testing and hazardous materials; $25,000 in technology, such as cabling, phones and other equipment; and $50,000 in contingency funds, according to design plans.

The county is planning to pay for the project with bonds, but will pay for the project with existing county reserves until exact costs are determined, said Nan Crary, county administrator. The county will reimburse itself for money initially spent when it issues bonds.

Commissioner Mel Dose said the timing is right because the bonds on the jail are almost paid up.

The expected completion of the next phase - design development - is the end of January. Then there are three months set for contract documents and almost a month for bid letting. Then the bid will be awarded and about five months are scheduled for construction. The completion date is set for around Dec. 1, 1999.

Some of the more dramatic changes in the schematic design of courthouse renovations are:

  • County board room will be moved from the main level to the lower level. It will be located in the current assembly room in the 1958 addition. The current county board room will be made into a courtroom.
  • The food shelf will remain in the lower level but will be moved to rooms north of its current location. Central services will be moved from the main level to the lower level and into the current food shelf and treasurer's vault location.
  • Court administration will move from the upper level to the main level of the '58 addition and former county recorder and treasurer offices. The current court administration area will be made into the new courtroom and additional room space needed for the new court and new judgeship.
  • The county attorney's office will be moved from the upper level into both the former county assessor's office and the current central services office on the main level in the original courthouse. Court services will expand into the current county attorney's offices on the upper level.
  • The veterans services office will move to the current license bureau office. The license bureau office is being moved to the north complex building on N. Hennepin Avenue.

Dose questioned the additional hardship for county employees having to go to the basement to get supplies from central services vs. having it located centrally on the main floor.

Cox said there was considerable discussion on that matter. Commissioner Sheldon Nies said with the county here to provide a public service, the decision was to keep public service offices on the main floor.

Dose and other commissioners also were concerned with the lack of space in the design for the food shelf. Commissioner Ray Bayerl and Dose did not think highly of having the commissioner's room in the basement due to accessibility.

Bayerl said the commissioner's room also is used by the planning commission and other committees.

Cox said Wold will continue to look into options, and he encouraged more concerns be brought up before the project was in the final design stages.

One audience member questioned whether the state had to approve moving of the motor vehicle department to the county's north complex building. While some commissioners thought it was their choice to move it, county auditor Cindy Schultz informed them that a request had been made with the Department of Public Safety. The county was waiting on approval.

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