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Building project cost near $1 million

The cost of renovating the jail's second floor into office space is creeping to the $1 million mark and beyond even after commissioners tried to scale back the project to under $800,000.

Design team Steve and Roz Johnson presented construction cost numbers to the board Wednesday of $913,394.10.

That doesn't include furnishings, a pathway to the courthouse, the front façade and other items. The county at this point doesn't plan on borrowing. It will take the funds from its building fund, which has more than $1 million in it.

But the board is generally pleased with the floor plan, which the Social Services Department had considerable input toward.

That department will be moving above the jail either late this year or early 2013.

The drawings will be finalized and bid packages prepared. Construction manager Pete Filippi said bids could be ready by late June and come in lower than expected.

One surprise came when the board learned the floor space was 900 square feet more than what they'd been led to believe. The actual building was 12,400 square feet, not 11,500 square feet, the Johnsons reported. That gives the department ample storage space and room for future growth.

When commissioner Lyle Robinson questioned the late bid timing, Filippi mentioned there are lots of construction companies without work.

"Most of them are out" in the Oil Patch, Robinson corrected him.

If the work is bid in late June, there's a possibility the move could be completed before the end of the year.

Roz Johnson estimated furniture would cost $78,000 for the work stations. With private office, conference rooms and other furnishings, the whole package is estimated at $130,000.

In other business, the board:

n Heard good news on the county's finances when it finalized a refinancing package on the jail's bonds.

The PFM Group of Minneapolis assisted the county in that refinancing. PFM managing director Myron Knutson praised the county's fiscal shape, indicating its solid finances contributed to a AA credit rating and lower interest rates. The jail's $5.9 million in bonds will be refinanced at a rate of 1.87 percent, saving $669,000 over the next decade. The 1.87 percent rate is locked in until 2025.

n Heard a good news/not-so-good news report on the jail.

Jail revenues were over $8,000 in April, reported Sheriff Cory Aukes, mainly due to Hubbard County housing overflow Becker County inmates.

But board chair Dick Devine had earlier presented the other side of the coin: the county's technology committee learned it may have to spend $22,000 upgrading jail software, money that is not currently budgeted for.

"Cory has to put it in his budget," Devine said.

The seven-year-old jail invested in (at the time) state-of-the-art software that opens and closes cell doors, controls temperature and lighting and performs a variety of functions.

That program uses a Microsoft XP Operating System. The software likely has to be upgraded to a Windows 7 OS.

"They can do all these miraculous things but only for a short time," Devine complained.

Devine warned Johnsons, during the building project discussion, he did not want the county locked into another short-term solution that would be expensive to replace. They agreed and said motion detectors will be used to control the lights, heating and cooling system and other functions in the second floor of the Law Enforcement Center.

Devine seemed particularly upset that the vendor for the jail software has a monopoly that disadvantages the county.

It has locked the county's technology experts out of tinkering with the system. County computers have to be shipped to the vendor to be upgraded.

"It's safer than having a lot of keys on your belt," commissioner Kathy Grell said.

"It sounds good on the front end but is not so good on the back end," Devine said.

n Spoke to M State director G.L. Tucker about continuing education for county employees. Department heads recently completed a nine-week course in lean thinking and immediately asked for a follow-up. The course got high reviews.

Tucker said the school will come up with a proposal directed toward customers service, supervisory training and interoffice relationships as a continuing education course. This likely would be geared to volunteers, not necessarily strictly to department heads.

"When you have people ask you for training that's a good thing," Tucker said.

Robinson suggested setting aside funds for continuous education. The county is trying to amalgamate many main floor functions so customers can go to a single office to get marriage licenses, check tax records and generally "one-stop shop."

n Supported a move by Giziibii RC&D to write a grant for the East Hubbard County Fire Department to purchase a used brush truck. The Akeley firefighters cover a wide area with two state forests. The truck is coming from Georgia, at an estimated cost of $133,000.

n Heard that 4-H director Mark Haugen has accepted a position elsewhere and that post will need to be filled.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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