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County Board votes 4-1 for $4M bond

Funds for necessary repairs to courthouse

By Kevin Mertens - Staff Writer | Feb 7, 2021

What to do with the courthouse? That was a big part of the discussion by the Faribault County Commissioners as they considered a 5-year Capital Improvement Plan as required to obtain capital improvement bond financing.

“We are currently not up to standards,” buildings and grounds supervisor Troy Beckman said. “We need to get the basement HVAC up to standards and take care of the mold problem.”

And it wasn’t the only issue which needs to be dealt with, Beckman shared.

“There is also some asbestos problems which need to be addressed,” Beckman commented.

The board was considering a bond in the range from $3.5 to $4 million.

“The question becomes how much money do we spend to maintain this building,” commissioner Tom Loveall stated.

An estimated $1.7 million to $1.9 million would be needed to do the HVAC work on the courthouse.

The annex building would also require some money to have some necessary maintenance performed and the Law Enforcement Center would also be included in the list of buildings needing some improvements.

“But I feel the priority should be on the main courthouse building,” Beckman offered.

Auditor Darren Esser explained the board would have about two years to spend the money from the time the bonds are sold.

“One positive aspect is money is pretty cheap right now,” board member Bruce Anderson said.

Another factor board members considered is what paying on the bond would do to the county tax levy.

“A $4 million dollar bond would mean a tax levy increase of 2.5 percent,” commissioner Bill Groskreutz commented.

The ability to bring in other tax dollars was briefly mentioned.

“We have the potential, with energy development, to bring in a great deal of money,” Loveall said. “But that is some years down the road if it is going to happen.”

The discussion returned to considering the final amount to bond for.

“It is not going to go as far as we would like,” Loveall commented. “Our goal has to be to spend the money wisely.”

Commissioner Greg Young agreed.

“There are some things which need to be done,” Young added. “There are other things that are all part of a wish list.”

The board eventually passed a motion to seek a $4 million bond with only commissioner Groskreutz voting against the motion.

In other business, county attorney Kathryn Karjala attended the meeting virtually and presented the commissioners with a two-page document establishing guidelines for resolutions and proclamation requests.

“This is something we copied from Stearns County,” Karjala explained. “Because we have had two resolution requests in the last year which I feel were unconstitutional; this would clarify what resolutions and proclamations the board would consider.”

Groskreutz explained he had picked up the idea from the Association of Minnesota Counties and had asked Karjala to review the document.

“With partisanship increasing on a local level, I thought this might be an appropriate document to have in place,” Groskreutz said.

The other commissioners expressed a desire to take some time to study the proposal and it was tabled until the next meeting.

Mark Daly also attended the meeting virtually to discuss Public Works topics.

“I would like to propose we subtract 10,000 tons of gravel we are currently buying from Falkstone at $9.66 per ton and instead crush 9,000 tons of concrete at the Baker Pit at a price of $4.67 per ton,” Daly suggested.

The board agreed and passed a motion to make the proposed change.

Daly also gave a report on the county parks.

“We have decided to set new rates for both parks,” Daly said. “We have eliminated the Friday-Sunday rate and established a monthly rate of $275 for Pihls Park and $250 for Woods Lake Park.”

Daly mentioned enforcement of the “dogs on a leash” rule will be carried out going forward.

“Too many campers think their dog is “nice,” Daly commented. “We will issue warnings. The third warning will include a $50 fine. The fourth warning will result in the dog being banned from the park for the rest of the season.”

Future improvements at Pihls Park were also discussed.

“We are looking at the possibility of adding 10 or more sites at Pihls Park along the lake on the south side of the park,” Daly said. “We would also like to paint the bathrooms.”

The board also:

• Listened to a presentation by Jason Walker of the Rural Minnesota Energy Board.

• Approved a gambling permit for Riverside Town & Country Club in Verona Township to administer a raffle on Aug. 28, of this year.

• Gave approval to upgrade the server at the Law Enforcement Center which allows remote access to the HVAC system. The cost of the upgrade is $22,724.

• Approved the requests of Chase Davis and Jacob Peterson of the Sheriff’s Office to attend a virtual training for drone operation.

• Approved the training request submitted by Christopher Beaver to attend a Glock Armorer course which is required for professional certification.