Court: New floor plans not perfect but workable
Architects working to reallocate space for Hubbard County offices unveiled drawings for the District Courts Wednesday.
The plan, costing in excess of $2 million, moves all court functions to the vacant second floor of the Law Enforcement Center.
Two of four options were presented. None completely met the court personnel's expectations, but can be workable, said District Judge Paul Rasmussen.
The most agreeable plan adds two large courtrooms, a smaller hearing room, three jury deliberation rooms, conference space and some enhanced security features onto office space for court personnel.
It would add a second entrance to the LEC, mainly accessible for court employees and the public.
However, the most popular option didn't give the Court Administrator's office any more room than it has now.
"It doesn't remedy all the physical issues but they've done a great job maximizing the use of space," Rasmussen told the county board. "I like bits and pieces of all of them."
Court personnel and two county attorneys related their recent experiences as to how unworkable the present space is.
When a large jury pool filled up one courtroom, the other was tied up for hearings, Rasmussen said.
County Attorney Don Dearstyne said at a recent trial, in order to keep witnesses separated from the defendant's family, his staff had to shuttle people up and down from the second floor of the county office building constantly, causing delays in the trial.
Rasmussen read a number of comments from jurors who have recently served on jury duty.
Their comments were universally negative about the current deliberation room. Most said it was way too small, too hot, too claustrophobic and not suited for 12 jurors being cooped up for lengthy periods of time.
One juror remarked the space felt like a jail cell.
Jurors make "very important decisions," Rasmussen said. "They need to focus on the task at hand and not be made uncomfortable."
St. Louis Park architect Bruce Schwartzman of Klein McCarthy Architects urged the board to move forward.
"Construction values are the lowest they've been," he said. "There are extremely reasonable construction and bond values out there."
The board gave him permission to refine the construction estimate and visit with bond attorneys to see if the project is feasible.
Moving the courts would free up space in the government office building, Schwartzman told the board. Social Services personnel are cramped in their current space on the third floor.
Until Wednesday, court personnel have been reluctant to commit to the new plans, causing county board members to stall a final decision. Rasmussen, while not giving the plan an outright thumbs up, praised the board and architects for giving the court concerns the seriousness they deserved.
Board chair Lyle Robinson also asked for an estimate on what it would cost to build offices above the jail.
Commissioners have debated whether to move other personnel to the LEC rather than the courts.