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Board will keep attorney’s office upstairs in new addition


Fri, Nov 8th, 2002
Posted in Features

Fillmore County Attorney Matthew J. Opat’s Tuesday morning Commissioners’ meeting started out well as he turned a half-century-old. He took it graciously, even when Sheriff Jim Connolly had him handcuffed, unofficially of course, to celebrate the event. When David Kane, an architect for the courthouse remodeling project asked if he should speak louder for the benefit of Opat’s aging ears, Opat shot back, “yes, that he wanted to hear that the County Attorney’s Office would be upstairs and not in the basement.” The Board had hoped to save thousands of dollars by housing the attorney’s office in the basement rather than upstairs adjacent to the courtroom facilities. The numbers, however, fell very short of the Board’s expectations. Cost estimates for placing the attorney’s office upstairs came in at $307,000. If the office was moved to the basement those figures would fall to $233,000 but require revamping the upstairs corridor. This would include expensive public restroom facilities and corridor walls. That price tag hit the $199,000 mark, thus making it more costly to house the attorney’s office in the lower level . This was something the Board members hadn’t counted on. Architect Jason Woodhouse went over other design changes with an emphasis on an electronic courtroom. Video monitors, intercoms and better lighting would make the courtroom run smoother. Judge Robert Benson briefly touched on how such a design would save time, a commodity that is very important when trying cases. Other design considerations included tighter security, more storage space, and creating a more comfortable atmosphere for victims and jurors during a trial. A frustrated County Board decided to accept the design as presented (including the attorney’s office upstairs) with the east wing basement being bid separately. The vote was four to one, with Commissioner Marc Prestby opposing the matter.A quiet, poker-faced county attorney had listened to the "evidence" as it was presented to the Commissioners, making the morning of his 50th birthday looking pretty good! Other courthouse remodeling matters . . .•Soil borings and a site survey must be completed to help the structural engineer determine load bearing ability. It also helps determine if there are any poor soil conditions that need to be corrected. A site survey will identify topography, utility locations, plant growth, etc. This is important in establishing good site drainage, and grade locations for new floors. A low bid of $4,800 by Brand & Massey Surveying was approved for the site surveying. American Engineering Testing will perform five borings at a cost of $1,500-$1,700. Kane and Johnson Architects recommended both companies.•Kane & Johnson Architects requested they be able to start a petition for a parking variance. Under the present policy, the proposed remodeled floor space would call for approximately 100 parking stalls. However, since the project’s objective is to create a more efficient work environment and will not add more employees, a variance from the city of Preston would be needed to leave the parking at 50 stalls. A brief, but sensitive discussion broke out between Commissioners Marc Prestby and Randy Dahl as this issue wasn’t on the agenda. Prestby argued that since it wasn’t listed, it could not be acted on. Doing so could open up a floodgate for future unidentified issues. Dahl felt it was related to the initial remodeling subject and should be acted on. Attorney Opat suggested that in the future, a wording such as ‘if action is needed’ may be added onto items that may require action. The variance will be addressed again next week. •A brief discussion regarding the courthouse’s windows and screens called for action on coverings. Presently, offices are using paper folders, etc. to shade the sun’s glare. Coordinator Karen Brown will research the problem further with a local business to determine a possible solution.•The board approved a $26,626.52 architectural service payment to Kane & Johnson Architects, Inc.

County to move ahead with E911 addressing systemHighway Engineer John Grindeland and Jeremy Maul, SWCD, reported on recommendations from the E911 Committee. Phase I of the project would include hiring a Geographic Information System (GIS) Coordinator to complete an inventory of the county’s driveways and locations. This person would coordinate the creation of the E911 data and meet with consultants to assign and implement the "new" addresses (street numbers). Meetings with townships and other County officials will be held to keep everyone in the loop. The committee believes this project will be extremely time-consuming and will require a separate department to take on the task. It was also pointed out that the existing Dispatch System, implemented in 1985, is very outdated, having already outlived its original life expectancy by two years. According to Grindeland, there is much work to be done and would require a very focused individual for the position, rather than gleaning off other departments. An estimated salary of $35,000/ year was suggested. A GIS/E911 Consultant could be hired for $39,665 (this could be reduced by as much as 50% depending on how much assistance is provided by the GIS Coordinator) and $6,000 for equipment and software are also part of Phase I. The cost of Phase I is estimated at $80,665. Phase II of the E911 project would include the purchase and installation of signs, and updating dispatch equipment and software. The projected timeline for this phase would be in calendar year 2004 at an estimated cost of $120,000. Phase III includes maintaining and updating the system as needed. The Board agreed to create such a position and send the criteria to a consultant for evaluation before proceeding further with the E911 project.Other matters... •County Attorney Opat requested the county consider participating in a County Attorney User Group which would give faster and more accurate information on the status of criminals and those individuals charged with a crime and out on bail. This would be shared between several counties. Fillmore is currently paying a yearly fee of $1,200-1,300 for such services. The group would be established under the Minnesota Counties Computer Cooperative and allow for more input /development of the software. The group believes that if the counties operated the software rather than a business, the end result would be more productive. The Board gave approval. •Philip Burkholder reviewed a proposal to laminate vital statistic records (births, deaths, marriages) that date back to the mid 1800’s. The current books have become extremely worn and further deterioration could result in lost information. U.S. Records, a laminating company from St. Cloud, MN, would remove old binders, clean off tape and residue, remove and add new tabs when necessary and place laminated pages in new binders. Individual pages could be taken out of three ring binders, making it easier to photo copy needed statistics. The job would cost $8,718.09. Board members agreed on the need to protect the aging books. Burkholder was asked to seek an additional bid if possible and bring it back to the next meeting.Board Chairman Duane Bakke requested that an overview of the sheriff’s deputies, including the number of deputies in the county and their assigned areas, be reported on by Sheriff Connolly. Bakke commented that several people have asked about such information and he would like to be able to give appropriate answers.

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