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A tale of two buildings:­­ Both need taxpayer funding

The roof tiles of the Hubbard County Historical Museum are curling and need replacing, one of numerous repairs the building needs. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)1 / 3
Rod Nordberg shows the difference in floor levels from one room to another. Although door jams are marked with bright yellow tape, museum officials fear they could be a liability. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)2 / 3
Workers are already installing sheet rock at the Social Services offices above the jail. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)3 / 3

As work progresses above the Hubbard County jail, the vexing question about what to do with the county's crown jewel resurfaces.

The 1900-era courthouse is a money pit, Hubbard County commissioners agreed Wednesday. But it's slowly becoming a liability, too.

Uneven flooring in the main floor, where the historical museum is housed, is a trip hazard.

The carpeting needs replacing. The plumbing is inadequate.

The roof is rotting. Shingles are beginning to curl.

Buildings and grounds maintenance supervisor Lee Gwiazdon gave the board a detailed inventory of the building's needs.

It should have an elevator to get people to the second floor, where the Nemeth Art Center is housed.

There's asbestos in the basement. The list goes on.

Gwiazdon questioned Wednesday how much work could be done to the building without compromising its historical value.

It's on the National Register of Historic Places. Gwiazdon suggested getting an engineer who works with historic buildings involved.

One commissioner had his own suggestion: if a fire starts, let it burn.

"We have so many things of value in this building," said a horrified Meredith Lynn, executive director of the Nemeth, which just celebrated its 35th birthday.

Historical Society director Connie Henderson and vice-president Rod Nordberg were equally distressed, even though the remark was made in jest.

"Are we throwing good money after bad?" commissioner Lyle Robinson questioned. "An old building like this can suck up a lot of your money."

Henderson came to last month's board meeting to express concern about the uneven flooring. In places on the main floor, a two-inch drop exists between rooms. Those areas are marked with bright yellow duct tape, but Henderson and Nordberg worry nonetheless.

The price tag to re-carpet the building would run around $4,000.

Lynn believes the smaller upkeep should continue.

Commissioners have suggested getting carpeting contractors working above the jail to order extra and complete the museum's 1,236 square feet at the same time the Social Services' new offices are done.

Gwiazdon thinks the roof, which isn't leaking yet, should be a priority. He recommended the board start budgeting annually for building repairs.

In the end the board took the matters under advisement. Since part of the building is unheated and closed for the winter, board members questioned whether latex glue to adhere carpeting to the floor could be affected by the cold.

Nordberg wishes more people would visit the museums, especially locals.

"There's people in town who've never set foot in here," he said. When he hears remarks, even off-the-cuff suggestions to let the building burn, he said it bothers him greatly.

The space next door

Meanwhile, work is quickly progressing above the jail facility next door to the old courthouse.

This week, sheet rock installers began filling in the office space walls.

The Social Services Department will be moving above the jail by year-end and that prompted some concerns by director Daryl Bessler about signage and parking for the building.

Currently it's only designated as the Law Enforcement Center and the front door opens directly to the Sheriff's Office.

Bessler wants to ensure his clients have ample room to park outside the building. And a well-marked entrance will prevent Social Services traffic from inundating dispatchers and office personnel on the main floor since there will be no way to access Social Services from the Sheriff's Department main entrance.

The board directed Bessler, Sheriff Cory Aukes and Gwiazdon to look into signage and parking solutions.

Sarah Smith

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

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