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Editorial: Refocus space plan to leave out courts

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opinion Park Rapids, 56470

Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

It's time for Hubbard County officials to throw in the towel on a space reallocation plan that involves the District Court personnel.

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The county needs to stop catering to court administration and do what it needs to accommodate Hubbard County Social Service's burgeoning workforce.

Court personnel have been dissatisfied with the office space for two years, necessitating the expenditure of thousands of dollars in architectural fees to accommodate that department's needs.

Court filings other than foreclosures are down; criminal cases are down overall. All attorneys need is a few more meeting rooms. It's not enough reason to play fruit basket upset with taxpayer money.

It isn't the right time to spend $2 million to force the courts into office space judges clearly aren't satisfied with. Court personnel have been reluctant to furnish pertinent information to assist the space planners - after getting the renovation ball rolling in 2008.

The county has now spent $24,000 developing a plan that doesn't appear workable.

The developments have frustrated county officials trying to accommodate a recalcitrant tenant.

If the county is spending the $2 million, it should do so with the aim of moving the Social Services Department into larger accommodations that will be reimbursed by the state.

The so-called "cash cow" department pays the county rent on a square footage basis.

County commissioners were right to scrap a $10 million expansion plan. They knew it would go over like a lead zeppelin with their constituents.

But even paring that plan back to $2 million may not be feasible.

With three commissioners running for reelection, the reality is that spending money before an election could be political suicide, even if one commissioner is running unopposed.

Doing nothing doesn't help Social Services.

As needs continue to be crushing, the department shouldn't have to operate in the hallways, converting closets to workspaces.

The architects were paid to determine the county's space needs. They have obviously determined the unused and vacant second floor of the Law Enforcement Center is suitable for office space even if it wasn't designed for that in mind.

Maybe it's time to bite the bullet and begin moving some second floor offices to the LEC, freeing up space for Social Services.

Environmental Services, the County Attorney's office and the County Coordinator could all move above the jail.

Social Services' staff could take over the county office building's second floor. Work could be done piecemeal and the additional rents generated could in part pay for the work done.

Maybe it isn't the best solution, but the courts have never offered anything better.

And "none of the above" wasn't among the choices.

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