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The courts portion of the Douglas County Courthouse is awaiting a major remodeling project. (Echo Press)

Court remodel cost goes up

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Court remodel cost goes up
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Douglas County commissioners bumped up their budget cap for the proposed remodel of the district court area of the courthouse.

On Friday, the county board held a special meeting with architects, a construction manager and courts remodel committee members to regroup and get on the same page about the project.

0 Talk about it

With a 4-1 vote, commissioners authorized increasing the courts remodel budget not to exceed $2.9 million.

Commissioner Jerry Johnson voted against the increase.

Commissioners pointedly directed architects to revamp the plan and stay less than $2.9 million.


Last summer, a committee was formed to plan for remodeling the court administration space at the Douglas County Courthouse.

Late last year, the county board set the courts remodel budget at $2.3 million.

Since then, architects put together a plan for the remodel.

The plan went from remodeling existing space to incorporating the lower level. Incorporating an elevator pushed the budget up by about $240,000.

Then, last month, commissioners learned the project estimate sprouted to $3.2 million, nearly $1 million more than budgeted.

That brought everyone together last Friday and Commissioner Johnson told architects, “I think we should just get right to the core and that’s the money. We’re $1 million over budget and we’re looking at a lot more square footage than was originally talked about at the beginning of this process last summer. You need to get that more in line with that budget. I don’t think the board is going to give on $1 million. I just can’t see us doing that.”

“If you’re telling us today to pare that back, we can do as much as we can,” said Mod Feders, an architect with Buetow2 Architects Inc. “Certainly, as architects, we can cut back. There’s going to be a little bit of hurt for everybody if we pull back and adjust it — take some pieces and finish some at a later date.”

“I would like to see us do a good plan, a complete plan,” Commissioner Dan Olson said. “I know this is a few bucks above what we were anticipating, but I don’t think we’ll have to do it again for another 25 years.”

Commissioners Olson and Johnson are on the courts remodel committee.

Olson said, “I don’t know that we’re going to be able to get $500,000 out of there. If there’s a couple hundred thousand we could pull out of there or something, let’s do that and see where we’re at. We’re going to spend more on drawings if we don’t figure something out here.”

Johnson said, “I would put [the budget] in at $2.5 [million] or $2.6 [million] range. I think that’s fair.”

Olson responded, “It’s fair, but I don’t think it’s doable. I really don’t.”

Johnson replied, “Then we should have known that before. The scope of the project should have been different.”

Olson later said, “I could see $2.7 [million] or $2.8 [million] – right in there – being doable, but not much less.”

Commissioner Charlie Meyer said, “How about not to exceed $2.9 [million]?”

With that, the board voted and increased the remodeling budget.

A final plan has yet to be presented to the board for approval.

Amy Chaffins
Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.
(320) 763-3133