Yellow Medicine County commissioners are looking at making some major financial decisions in the coming months, including the construction of a new roughly $8 million courthouse.
During Tuesday’s meeting they took an inventory of their options after speaking with court representatives and financial advisors, and are now looking to bring the facts to constituents during upcoming public meetings that will be scheduled in Granite Falls, Clarkfield and Canby.
Built in 1889, the prevailing sentiment is that the makeup of the YMC Courthouse is inadequate for today’s world, creating security, juror sequestration, technology and other issues that need to be addressed.
Commissioners heard from YMC 8th District Judge DuWayne Knutsen, District Court Administrator Tim Ostby and District Chief Justice Don Spilseth on the matter. “We have 13 counties [in the 8th District], noted Spilseth. “I would say of all the 13 this is the one that could use help the most.”
As Chief Justice, Spilseth sits on the state Judicial Council, which is the administrative body that governs the entire Minnesota court system. Spilseth spoke to the importance of the Yellow Medicine court, and addressed concerns that the county might construct the new building, only to have state remove the county’s judgeship thereafter.
“We hold [Yellow Medicine] as an active part of our district, an important county, and we certainly don’t think that there would be anything in the forseeable future where we would either lose the chambership here or see regionalization,” he said. “Sitting on the judicial council I haven’t heard any discussion of it, and I don’t see any movement in that direction.”
Relaying questions heard from community members, commissioner Gary Johnson asked what had changed that required the need of additional facilities.
Judge Knutsen noted that criminal filings are far greater than they were in 70s, 80s and early 90s, when there wasn’t the prevalence domestic violence, alcohol and chemical dependencies, single parent families, etc. “Any factor you want to name, the social problems have increased and all the social problems end up here,” he said.
“Gone are the days when Andy and Barney and Otis were the only three real problems back when this place was built,” chimed in YMC Sheriff Bill Flaten. “The concerns we have in 2013 and moving forward are way different than the problems Sheriff Rollins saw in the 1980s.”
Speaking to financial advisors Bruce and Nick Anhut of Ehlers and Associates, commissioners were briefed on potential courses of action they could follow to finance such a project. Board members were presented with options wherein $6 million of the project would be bonded for over 20 years with $2 million coming out of the county’s current $11 million in reserves.
According to information distributed at the meeting, the impact to property owners would be an approximately $13 to $18 dollar property tax increase on $100,000 residential homestead.
Page 2 of 2 - At present, commissioners are still debating what would be the proper mix of bonding, tax increases and/or reserve spending––if they decided to go ahead with the project. The upcoming community meetings, which have yet to be scheduled, may help shed some light on this issue.
In other news:
Commissioners approved a request by Property and Public Services Director Janel Timm to spend roughly $97,000 of the approximately $150,000 in recorder's unallocated and technology funds to have county documents from the 1800s through 1966 (over 150,000 pages) imaged and stored on digital media by ArcaSearch of Elk Lake.
•Commissioners approved the awardable of a $867,809 bid to Hjerpe Contracting, of Hutchinson, for improvements to County Ditch No. 9 Branch R. According to Duane Hansel, of Bolton and Menk Engineering, the bid was four percent below the engineer's estimate of $906,728 and seventeen percent below the second lowest bidder.
•Commissioners approved the hire of Deb Nafziger to be hired as a Eligibility Worker effective October 7. The position is 37.5 hours a week at $18.40 per hour, or 35,880 annually.