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A $4.4 million extreme makeover

By Staff | May 3, 2015

The Faribault County Courthouse, shown above in a Register file photo, is one of several county buildings needing remodeling and security upgrades.

The Faribault County Courthouse is a staple in downtown Blue Earth, and is not only an aesthetic part of the community but also is the home to integral services for all the residents in Faribault County.

However, it could take some major work and big bucks to do some necessary improvements to the historical building.

Some of the staff within the courthouse has been assessing the space in the courthouse, security issues and overall use of the building.

The Faribault County Board met last Tuesday in a work session with I&S?Group (ISG) to go over some of the findings of that assessment.

The group first looked into security improvements in the current courthouse building, including security cameras, security windows and key card access.

“Court security is becoming a big issue,”?Sheriff Mike Gormley noted during the work session.

ISG found that there were a number of locations where key card access should be added within the courthouse building. The proposed findings state that there are 16 doors within the courthouse which could use key card access which would cost between $35,531 and $39,173 to install.

Also in the findings, the group looked into some possible relocation options for various departments. Should any of those relocations happen, there would be the possibility of six more doors needing key cards. Those additional doors would cost $2,500 each.

The study found that the security cameras should be installed in the Courthouse and the quotes for that range from $11,000 to $30,000 depending on the number of cameras.

“It is anticipated that the installation of cameras in three additional spaces, including the attorney’s office, license bureau and veterans services could be beneficial,” the report says.

The county also sought bids for the addition of bullet resistant glass in the courthouse. The Faribault County staff originally found quotes for the addition of bullet resistant glass to the recorder’s office, assessor’s office, auditor’s office and treasurer’s office which could cost up to $23,980.

After first looking into some of the security issues, the group then moved on to phase two which included reviewing office space and considering other buildings for possible relocation and expansion.

ISG looked into utilizing the annex building, the former jail building and the Minnesota Valley Action Council building for other offices. Human Services, county attorney, veterans service, extension services and license bureau all had the possibility of relocating into those three buildings.

“When we were building the Law Enforcement Center, there was a possibility of putting an addition on, that’s something to keep on the table before we get too committed to anything,”?commissioner Greg Young said. “We need to look down every street and alley here.”

ISG met with each department to determine their needs and how those needs would be best met.

Human services states they needed more private offices, private interview space, an ITV room, a space for board meetings, storage for closed files and much more.

The county attorney office, which is on the first floor of the annex, expressed the need for more security provisions, a secure entrance, a reception area, work area, file area and two offices and a conference room.

Veteran Services, also located in the annex, expressed the need for more security provisions, privacy provisions to meet federal requirements, reception and waiting area, private interview rooms, secure storage area, and much more.

The Extension offices and license bureau both also expressed the need for security provisions and secure storage rooms.

ISG went through and checked each building, including the main courthouse building, for any repairs or renovations which might need to be made.

However, since the courthouse is on the historical registry, there are many requirements to meet while making these improvements.

The exterior masonry improvements alone could total more than $320,650 and would include tuck pointing, shingle repair, and improvements to the tower.

“I want to do it right, but what are we supposed to do when we get tons of regulations and no money,” commissioner Tom Warmka said.

Central Services director Dawn Fellows said that when this process began she had looked into funding for repairing a historical building like the courthouse.

“It depends on your timing,” Fellows added. “When I reached out they had smaller grants available.”

And, after reviewing each of the phases of the study, the County Board looked at the proposed scope of the entire project, including security updates, renovations and office relocations.

The total cost, which ISG stated was estimated on the higher end, came out to $4,479,571. This total includes both floors of the annex, the former jail building, the MVAC building, the law enforcement center and the courthouse.

The scope of the work, as well as an estimated budget provided by ISG, will then serve as a reference for the County Board in order to decide how to proceed with the overall project in the future.