E-this, e-that, not always e-z
Summer hasn't yet passed and autumn projects are on the agenda for the Douglas County commissioners. A courts remodel project is slated to pick up where it left off and funding requests are becoming common as budget talks draw nearer.
Presently, a shelled out area in the courthouse awaits interior work expected to begin this fall. Once the work is finished, the courts will have an additional courtroom, a jury deliberation area and necessary offices that have been non-existent for the past two years.
Beutow 2 Architects has been selected for the job. Three architect fee proposals were discussed at the July 23 Douglas County commissioners' meeting. Beutow 2 Architects out of Minneapolis was the least expensive bid at $131,695. Klein McCarthy Architects from St. Louis Park proposed $159,300 and BKV Group also from Minneapolis submitted $160,000.
"We need to be cognizant of what we spend and where we spend," said Commissioner Jim Stratton. "$28,000 is still $28,000."
Costs could have been higher. County Coordinator Bill Schalow and Commissioner Charlie Meyer met with the firms and offered them the option to reduce fees prior to the meeting. All three architects lowered their bids.
Commissioner Bev Bales expressed concern over criticism that may arise out of not selecting a local firm but said that while the dollars are important, so is the quality of work and oftentimes work is brought to area businesses although the lead architect may not be a Douglas County based firm.
E-SERVICES STRESS LIBRARY
As reliance on public libraries grows, so too does the amount the Viking Library System requests from the county for support.
Peg Werner, director of the Viking Library System (VLS), asked commissioners to contribute $109,446 in 2014. The 2013 allocation was $106,777.
Werner explained that government, as it was in the past, has been transitioning into "e-government." She said fewer government offices are providing paper forms, which brings more visitors into the library for computer and Internet use. People now have to apply for unemployment, Social Security and Medicare online.
"It's going to be a really big impact on us," Werner said. "It's already started."
In addition to more time spent teaching computer literacy, more money is being spent on delivering literature. Rising gas prices have affected the Bookmobile service, which stops at 19 Douglas County locations.
The 2014 budget request is 2.5 percent higher than last year, which was 2.5 percent more than 2012. Between 2009 and 2012, the VLS received flat funding. VLS is requesting the same 2.5 percent increase from all counties it serves (Douglas, Grant, Otter Tail, Pope, Stevens and Traverse).
Commissioners have a budget discussion planned for August 7.
E-TICKETING BENEFITS SHERIFF'S OFFICE
The Douglas County sheriff's office has already been issuing citations via e-charging. Now the office is going even greener by eliminating the need to transport and file a hard copy of the ticket.
The sheriff's office has partnered with the state of Minnesota in a joint powers agreement for e-citations. Grant funds will cover the one-time cost of $7,500 required to connect computer interfaces between the record management system and court information system.
E-citations delete handwriting discrepancies, speeds up processing time, which saves time and money and eliminates the need for paper ticket storage at the courthouse.
Sheriff Troy Wolbersen confirmed that people will still receive a paper ticket, but that is the only paper copy that will be printed.
GRANTS AND DONATIONS
Douglas County Social Services received a two-year $2,784 adoption and foster care recruitment grant to cover expenses associated with LexusNexus. LexusNexus is a computer software program that pairs foster children with potential permanent homes.
In addition to accepting the LexusNexus grant, commissioners also approved $1,249 in donations to the Douglas County hospice program.
Crystal Dey Crystal Dey is a staff reporter for the Echo Press. Originally from Minnesota's Iron Range, Dey worked for newspapers in North Dakota, Florida and Connecticut before returning to her home state to join the Echo Press in October 2011. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Staff Reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter at @CrystalDey_Echo.