Last week, the Hubbard County Board agreed to pay out of pocket for an architect to design a three-phase restoration of the historic courthouse.

Constructed in 1900, it remained county headquarters until about 1975. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It currently houses the Nemeth Art Center and Hubbard County Historical Museum.

The most critical issue is replacing roof shingles, gutters, downspouts and cornices, at an estimated cost of $167,500. Phase 1 would also include upgrading the electrical system to modern capacity, at a cost of $32,500.

Phase 2 would involve installing an elevator and a heat/ventilation/air conditioning (HVAC) system. Total cost is projected at $546,000.

Phase 3 could include restoring the original cupola, estimated at $505,000.

Hubbard County commissioner Tom Krueger said there a need for a detailed architectural design, which costs approximately $10,000.

An architect must determine where to put the HVAC equipment, for example, he said. “One idea is up in the ceiling, but they don’t know whether the beams would support it. All of that you need to get the architect to look at it.”

If the county sought a grant for the architect, “it would probably delay the roof work until January 2022,” Krueger said. “The alternative would be to pay out of pocket for the architectural design. We do have $25,000 in the budget for next year, and it would speed (the process) up for a whole year.”

Then the county could proceed directly into grant application for major funding, he said. The restoration is eligible for a Minnesota State Historical Society Cultural and Heritage Grant.

“They do look for commitments of local support,” Krueger said, so they would take the county’s $10,000 contribution into consideration.

Krueger reported that, according to Nemeth Art Center Executive Director Nicolle LaFleur, the state historical society “is very willing to work with locals on a project like this because they’d like to see that building preserved. It needs a new roof.”

County commissioner Char Christenson asked if the board had time to consider this $10,000 request.

County Coordinator Eric Nerness said the next round of grant applications would be due around July 2020.

County commissioner David De La Hunt said, “This has got to get rolling. Nothing’s happened. The problem is just going to get worse. Pretty soon you’re going to have a leak and you’re going to have bigger problems.”

Once the grant approved is approved, Krueger said, another issue will be the need for a construction manager. The county would be the “general contractor,” he said, so someone would need to coordinate the work. LaFluer estimated it would take 30 hours per week.

Nerness said the county wouldn’t retain a general contractor, unless there were three or more trades involved. “We’re looking at roof and HVAC,” he said, but added “it’s a significant project.”

Christenson suggested hiring an experienced general contractor. “Off the top of my head, I can’t think of anybody in the county (government) qualified to do it,” she said.

Nerness said a manager could be included in the county’s grant request.

The board unanimously approved a motion to pay for the architect and seek funding for construction manager.