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County opts for 17-year finance plan for next phase of courthouse renovations

BY Sarah smith

Hubbard County will finance its courthouse renovation over 17 years, saving taxpayers $400,000.

It hopes to get an interest rate of 2.22 percent.

If bids for bonds come in favorably, construction could start by September 2013 for the $4.5 million project. The board will review the bids May 7 to recommend or reject the low bond bid.

Annual payments will fluctuate between $253,000 and $257,600, which are easily within the county’s reach. The county is also paying $2 million of the project costs up front with money from reserves.

Tuesday commissioners got a look at the revised floor plans drawn by Vetter Johnson Architects of Minneapolis.

Steve Johnson, Architect

Architect Steve Johnson said he made numerous changes after consulting Hubbard County department heads about the preliminary plans.

Johnson urged the board to begin discussions about phasing the project and relocating certain offices.

The board voted to move the project from the schematic phase to the design/development phase Tuesday.

The county attorney’s offices and environmental services, which will eventually move to the first floor, could be relocated for up to a year during the work, so those departments will need semi-permanent quarters.

Other offices will be moved around as necessary to accommodate the construction. The new plan envisions a new south main entrance on Third Street.

Plans to vacate that street went awry when the city discovered the legal description wasn’t correct, so another public hearing will be set once the application is amended.

The county has been working toward establishing a “land records department” for the past year to offer “one-stop shopping” to the public.

That new department will consist of the Environmental Services Office, Assessor and Recorder’s departments and will occupy the second floor.

Because of space considerations, ESO will physically be located on the main floor, but some operations will be moved one floor above.

“Team Land,” the name the board has dubbed the new amalgamation, will also include functions of the Auditor/Treasurer’s office such as tax payments and marriage licenses. The Auditor’s office will remain a separate entity.

Eric Buitenwerf, the Environmental Services Officer, and Recorder Nicole Lueth, will head “Team Land,” with a single supervisor eventually assuming supervision.

The board and employees have taken a lean thinking course through M State and are working to save money by consolidating certain county functions that overlap and cross-training employees to perform a variety of tasks.

Those functions will eventually occupy the second floor of the county office building.

Because of security concerns, all courthouse guests will go through a metal detector on the first floor, and public access to some offices will be limited. Currently there are three entrances for visitors.

And Tuesday more revisions were considered for the main courtroom after Sheriff Cory Aukes said he’d like some secured areas to place inmates making court appearances.

The work is anticipated to have a 2014 completion date.

Vetter Johnson and construction manager Contegrity Group oversaw the recent Social Services move above the jail and will be in charge of the new phase of the project as well. The first phase came in around $60,000 lower than expected.

Sarah Smith

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

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