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County board members include, from left, Greg Larson, Dick Devine, Lyle Robinson, Cal Johannsen and Don Carlson. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

County expansion project hits another snag

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news Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Hubbard County's scaled down plan to reallocate space to burgeoning departments has mired down again.

Commissioner Cal Johannsen, who sits on the county's Building Committee, said further floor plan work hinges on getting the district court personnel input.

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So far that input has been mainly a rejection of the current plan, which is to move court functions to the vacant second floor of the Law Enforcement Center.

"They don't want anything," Johannsen said. "We just have to move on."

The county allocated $16,800 to retain the services of a Twin Cities architectural firm, which surveyed county departments to determine needs. In March the board voted to expend up to $7,000 to satisfy the court personnel's' concerns over what the floor plans would actually look like.

Without more detailed drawings, Court Administrator Darlene Gerbracht said it would be impossible to determine if the space, which was initially designed as jail quarters, would work.

The district judges got the ball rolling in 2008 when they expressed concerns about security and the inadequacy of courtrooms and meeting rooms for trials.

Another component of the plan, which originally envisioned building a two-story office building, was to give Hubbard County Social Services more room.

Increasing workloads and personnel in that department have pushed workers out into hallways and closets.

The initial price tag of $10 million went over like a lead balloon with the public, so was scaled back considerably to around $2 million.

"We should just move Social Services up there (above the jail) and be done with it," Johannsen said.

"Attorneys say all we're lacking is meeting rooms," said board chair Lyle Robinson, questioning the need to uproot county offices. "We need to stay the course."

And what is the course at the present time?

It seems nothing.

"Obviously we're not ready to spend any money," Robinson said.

In other action the board:

n Voted to spend around $140,000 for new technology in numerous departments, purchasing items such as servers, a new E-911 database and replacing reader-printers for the recorder's office with a scanner, microfiche carrier and zoom lens.

n Approved the Sentencing to Service Contract with Minnesota that cuts $12,280.48 from monies previously allotted in a two-year contract that ends June 30, 2011.

Over the two years the county will get just over $36,000, not the $48,400 anticipated. The program has been cut from a reimbursement of 50 percent of total operating costs in 2010 to 25 percent next year.

The state made the cuts to the program to trim a budget deficit.

"We've either gotta come up with it or cut services," Johannsen said.

But commissioners said the way to make up the deficit is to cut back work the prisoners do for the state, and instead do work for the townships that compensate and support the program.

"They need to know if we can't make ends meet, we have to make cuts" too, Robinson said.

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