Capital Improvement bond $5.9 million
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The Yellow Medicine County board adopted a financial resolution calling for bonding for the replacement of the courthouse building at a special public meeting Wednesday night.
Gary Johnson was the sole nay vote, citing his qualms with a large project not going to a vote.
“If I vote for this, it goes out that [this project] is okay without a referendum,” Johnson said. “I was never opposed to building, I was opposed to not having a referendum.”
Commissioners Greg Renneke, Ron Antony and John Berends voted for the plan, while Louis Sherlin was unable to attend.
The $5.9 million price tag for the bonding was a “not-to-exceed” limit, and board members affirming that the job of Contegrity Group Inc., which is serving as construction manager for the project, is to make sure the project remains at or under budget.
“It was projected to be $8 million, and now it is less than $6 million,” said County Administrator Peg Heglund.
Heglund emphasized that after last month, the county was no longer in debt and in good financial standing. That coupled with a lack of county projects on the horizon meant that an across the board tax increase of 1.8 percent would be all that was required for a brand new courthouse.
“Other counties will bundle projects, sometimes with one bond for multiple items,” Heglund said. “Our plan is just for this county building.”
Heglund also mentioned that lack of space, security and handicap accessibility was part of the need for a new courthouse, on top of an aging structure that is starting to live past its prime.
When a petition to move the county seat to Clarkfield in 1940 instead of building additions to the courthouse in Granite Falls was proposed, the Granite Falls Tribune predicted that the building would last “50 to 75 years if properly maintained,” which at the highest estimate puts the lifetime of the courthouse building at 2015.
The board room was nearly filled with county citizens, including some expressing their distaste for certain aspects of the plan, including the cost and the plans to demolish the old courthouse.
“I think the building you are proposing is huge,” said George Rysdahl of Clarkfield, who suggested a one story building on grade would be much cheaper, although quoted a cost of $118 per square foot, much lower than the engineer’s estimate of an industry standard $235 per square foot. “It is not what you want, but you can afford.”
Others, including Terri Dinesen and Yellow Medicine County Historical Society Director Brian Schulz were hoping to preserve the old courthouse for the historical significance.
The board members weren’t opposed to selling the old courthouse to another entity, but emphasized that a solid 20-year financial plan, including the estimated $2.5 - 2.8 million in necessary repairs and demolition would need to be included.
“They would have to be a very good salesman,” said board member Ron Antony.
Gary Johnson also noted that if a group is to purchase the old courthouse, the cost of building a new courthouse around the existing building would raise the costs above $6 million.
“Once people find out the county needs parking, there will be a lot of expensive houses for sale,” Johnson said.
Schulz pointed out that the options for raising the money to purchase the building has already run into issues, as the Minnesota Historical Society deemed that the removal of turrets and add-ons made the old courthouse nominally historic.
The project now goes into a 30-day wait period for anyone seeking a referendum on the project to petition to include it on the November ballot. A petition requires signatures from 5 percent of the county voters who participated in the last election, which is a minimum of 274 voters.