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Courts remodel gaining momentum

Douglas County commissioners and court administrators continued to debate the courts remodel project at the Board of Commissioners meeting on October 11.

A central concern for the board is the cost. While Contegrity Group Inc. provided a conceptual estimate at no charge, the board needs something more concrete in order to proceed.

"To do anything more, we would need a better price," said Commissioner Jerry Johnson. Johnson acknowledged that Contegrity's number is "pretty close." That number is $798,743.

It was decided that the building committee would perform a walk-through of the courthouse prior to the committee's meeting on October 12. The walk-through did not happen. However, the committee and court administration reached an agreement at the committee's meeting on October 12, ac-cording to Court Administrator Rhonda Bot.

"The building committee offered to finish one of the unfinished rooms," Bot said.

The committee will have to bring the offer in front of the full board before any action may be taken. Bot is asking to go before the board at its November 8 meeting.

Currently, a former jury assembly room is serving as Courtroom C, which takes away space the court needs. Bot said the court has lost a jury deliberation room, and space for the child support magistrate and visiting judges.

"[It] makes it very difficult to function currently," she said. When the courtroom remodel is finished, there will be four full courtrooms; there are three now.

The board's hesitation to act appears to be influenced by two things - total cost upon completion of the courts remodel and other pending projects. Douglas County Coordinator Bill Schalow questioned the board, "Is there a magic number you want to get this to?"

Included in the Contegrity estimate is roughly $100,000 worth of woodwork, according to Schalow, he asked if they took all that out if it would still be too much to spend. Bot questioned the lack of specifics in the Contegrity estimate like what type of wood would be used. The type of wood alone could affect the project total.

"Get the planning done, we're not building today or tomorrow," said Commissioner Dan Olson. He also said there are projects that were started "some time ago" that the board would like to see completed. Board Chairman Norm Salto offered that in two years, some funds would be freed up for the court remodel project.

However, planning now and building later could be problematic. Commissioner Bev Bales commented, "Things can certainly change. The architectural drawings could change."

An area of concern Schalow pointed out is to get new numbers you need to get a new architect and a new architect must be hired before a total can be provided.

"We're talking about an awfully lot bigger project than we can tackle right now," Bales said.

The board and court administrators agree on one point: It is taking too long.

Follow #AlexMN @EchoPress reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter at @CrystalDey_Echo.

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 @Crystal_Dey.

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