County board approves remodel contracts, shifts focus to staff needs

The Government Center and Law Enforcement Center remodel is officially out of the starting gate.

The county board voted 4-0 to approve Paul Johnson Architects as the project architect and Knutson Construction Services as the project manager at the board’s regular meeting Tuesday. Chairman Mike Ankeny was absent from the meeting.

The board postponed signing the contracts last week to fine-tune wording.

On Monday, Paul Johnson and Knutson officials met with the Building Committee and staff in Health and Human Services and the LEC to discuss their needs in their new office space.

The meeting was a chance for the Johnson and Knutson officials to learn what the employees will need to work efficiently in the new space.

“I thought that the staff had given it a lot of thought,” Commissioner Jerry Reinartz said. “They had a lot of input of what they didn’t like in the current set up and how they’d like to see the new space designed.”

“They know their needs more than we do,” Commissioner Tim Gabrielson added.

The layout of the remodel is already shifting. County Coordinator Craig Oscarson said they’re now discussing using the entire second floor of the old courthouse and jail for Health and Human Services, which would allow the LEC to remain all on the main floor and basement. Oscarson’s office could move to the old county attorney’s office to make room for meeting and conference room space. The shift could mean the LEC remodel surpasses the $800,000 the city and county each set aside — totalling $1.6 million — which will likely be an item for future discussion.

Staff also discussed making the east Government Center entrance handicapped accessible or changing spaces in the LEC lot to handicapped.

While commissioners said they’re pleased to get going, they indicated staff wants to take its time to make sure workers get everything right and don’t have to revisit something that’s not working in a few years.

After more discussions with the staff, Johnson will complete a preliminary basic layout. While there’s a lot still to discuss, Gabrielson said he’s happy discussions are progressing.

“At least we’ve got a good starting point and we can fine-tune,” Gabrielson said.

The county’s cost for the Government Center remodel and LEC projects is estimated at $4.6 million — about $3.8 million for the government center remodel and about $800,000 for the county’s share of remodeling the LEC. Oscarson has estimated the entire project at around $6 million. A more precise total will come after Johnson completes his design for the project.

County forms redistricting committee

A committee is set to lead the county board through redistricting.

The county board voted 4-0 (with Mike Ankeny absent) to form a redistricting committee of Auditor-Treasurer Doug Groh, Coordinator Craig Oscarson, City Clerk Lucy Johnson, county IT worker Duane Felt and Eric Miller of Jones Haugh & Smith Inc., who will serve as a volunteer.

The committee will make recommendations for the county’s redistricting process, but the board will have the final say.

There’s a chance the board won’t need to reshape commissioners’ lines for redistricting, as population changes were small.

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