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Still no consensus on courthouse project Board will discuss again this week

Mon, Sep 9th, 2002
Posted in Features

The Fillmore County Commissioners spent another hour at last weeks board meeting discussing the scope of the courthouse remodeling and addition without reaching a consensus.
Chairman Duane Bakke put the discussion on the agenda so that the board would be able to discuss the project amongst themselves without the architect or construction managers present. But the appearance of the item on the agenda was noticed by staff, and five department heads, the county attorney and the judge showed up for the discussion.
Commissioner Randy Dahl was the first to voice his opinion, stating that he does not favor a complete wrap-around addition on the existing courtroom. Although acknowledging that interest rates are low, and it is a good time to build, Mr. Dahl said he does not favor adding the hearing room and new offices for the county attorney.
Commissioner Marc Prestby, after listening to Mr. Dahl, stated that he would be in favor of the west wing for the court administration and judges chambers, but that he was still not convinced that there couldnt be enough space in the existing buildings to house everyone else.
On the other hand, Commissioner Harry Root stated that he strongly favored the entire project as proposed by the architect and construction manager, and supported by nearly all of the department heads and the judicial branch.
Noticeably quiet throughout the discussion was Commissioner Helen Bicknese. Her only comment was that she would wait to see the final estimate numbers when the construction manager comes back tomorrow.
While most of the county staff in the room were quiet, Judge Robert Benson did reiterate his position that the commissioners should build for the futurefor 15 to 20 years outand not just for today.
Predicting growth in the countys population, and subsequently in the judiciary system, Judge Benson noted that if the full project werent done now, someone would have to pay to do something again, soon.
County Attorney Matt Opat echoed Judge Bensons words, and reminded the board that this project would not be the end of the facilities upgrade as the jail is already overcrowded and will need to be expanded.
While most of the discussion did not shed any new light on how people feel about the project, Chairman Bakke indicated after the meeting that he expects a decision to be made soon. "Everybody be prepared to move forward," were his final instructions to his colleagues.
In order for the county to stay on a timely construction schedule bid notices for the first phase of the project would have to be ready to go by mid-winter.
In his closing remarks, Commissioner Root made perhaps the quote of the week: "Looking into the future 20 years, $4.1 million may look very economical."
In other business
The board also held a discussion with Darrell Erickson and Donald Redalen of the county fair board on general road maintenance on the fairgrounds and bleacher upgrades. Rochester commuters use the fairground parking lot and it was discussed who should pick up the bill for the rock. The county will pay.
The board also held contract negotiations with Michael Daniels and several members of the highway workers union. Among other things, the union is requesting a pay raise for the top pay step for Heavy Equipment Operators. Fillmore County operators in the top step receive the lowest pay in the eleven counties of southeastern Minnesota.
There were no zoning discussions at last weeks meeting.

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