Crow Wing County commissioners moved ahead with the plan for a $51 million government complex in downtown Brainerd that remodels existing buildings and creates new ones.
The county board voted 4-1 Tuesday afternoon to approve general obligation capital improvement plan bonds not to exceed $36 million to help pay for the building project.
Commissioner Dewey Tautges was opposed.
Tautges said he agreed the county had to do something.
"I just can't support this amount," he said.
About the project
The entire project is expected to cost $51 million, which includes $2 million the county expects to save in maintenance for buildings that will be demolished.
Building construction could begin with site preparation as early as this fall.
A property owner with a $100,000 market value home would pay $63 a year for 20 years. Those numbers are expected to change slightly and won't be firm until the bond sale. Numbers are dependent upon legislative tax changes and growth of the county's tax base.
Mary Koep, former county commissioner and current Brainerd City Council member and Laurel Street resident, was the only member of the public to attend the hearing. Koep said she wanted to go on record as being opposed to the project.
In two separate motions, the board approved competitive negotiations of nearly $32.9 million in general obligation capital improvement plan bonds and negotiated sale of $18.1 million in general obligation county jail bonds. The bond issue includes capitalized interest and projected cost of issuance, which will be repaid during a 20-year period. Tautges opposed both motions.
"It has not been an easy decision for anybody," said Terry Sluss, board chairman. "... I feel we have overturned and looked under every stone at this point. ... This is the conclusion point that moves us forward."
Commissioner John Ferrari said he talked to many people and could honestly say he has not heard a negative reaction in regard to the building plan.
"We have no choice with the jail," he said.
Commissioner Ed Larsen said in 10 years he believes people will be saying they are glad the county moved forward with the plan.
"This is by far the best choice," Larsen said.
The bond sales will be submitted to the state for review, but approval is expected before the planned June 7 date to offer bonds and a June 8 date to award them.
The project is expected to meet county needs for the next 20 to 25 years and includes future expansion options. County officials noted the prediction for the county's population to double in the next two decades as a driving need behind the project.
The $51 million pays for a new jail, new judicial center, new community services building and new heating plant. The highway department, currently located along Laurel Street, will move out of downtown Brainerd. The plan postpones a new Law Enforcement Center, proposed with the new jail, until a future date. The current LEC will be maintained. The existing historic courthouse will be remodeled along with the Service Building.
The county had 449 employees in 2003 and it is estimated that it will have 738 employees in 2025, which excludes jail employees.
Statutory limits state counties cannot have debt that is in excess of the assessor's taxable market value. The county has a taxable market value of $5.8 billion and Springsted Inc. reported the county is far below its debt limit. The total amount of outstanding debt cannot exceed $115,740,675. As of March 22, the county had $6,945,000 subject to the legal debt limit, Springsted said.
RENEE RICHARDSON can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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