A $35.76 million proposal that includes constructing a possible justice center was put on the table at a planning session Wednesday for the Crow Wing County Board to review.
The project was presented by the county's Building Committee and its consultant, Gary Otterstad, chief executive officer at Construction Analysis Management of Brainerd.
The Building Committee has been working aggressively on the building project for more than a year. Committee members include Don Ryan, county attorney; Susan Beck, county human services director; Brian Miller, head of county maintenance; Peter Herlofsky Jr., county administrator; Roy Luukkonen, county auditor; and county commissioners Terry Sluss and John Ferrari.
In the past few weeks, building committee members have been working with Otterstad to put together a cost analysis for the project. The estimates are based on today's costs, Otterstad said.
The project includes a proposed 65,000-square-foot justice center that would cost about $12 million. The current proposal calls for the center to include four courtrooms, two future courtrooms and conference and office space. County departments that may be housed in the center would include court administration, county attorney, community corrections and the public defender. Guardian ad litem space and holding cells also may be housed in the center.
Otterstad said, at this time, the committee is proposing the justice center be built between the highway department and the courthouse on Laurel Street. This space currently includes the Law Enforcement Center parking lot, the sheriff's investigator's building, a resident's home and an office building, which currently houses attorney Tom Fitzpatrick's law office.
Ryan said if this proposal becomes a reality, the county would first have to acquire these properties before it could begin the construction process.
Another major portion of the building proposal is an addition and renovation of the Law Enforcement Center.
The estimated cost of the addition is $5.9 million to construct a 36,000-square-foot addition to the LEC. This space may include a 25-bed maximum security area, office space, booking area and a secured connection to the justice center.
The estimated cost of the LEC renovation is $968,136.
A proposed $3.2 million would be used for renovations to the social service building, which includes adding 25 percent more space to the facility.
This current proposal calls for a central heating plant to be constructed at a cost of $5.2 million. The plant would house the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems for all county facilities.
Part of the preliminary proposal includes renovating the courthouse and adding multiple parking lots to accommodate 250 vehicles.
An estimated $4.4 million was included in the cost analysis for architectural work, land acquisition, furnishings and for contingency.
Otterstad said the county board should consider the costs carefully. He said it will most likely see a 3.5 to 4.5 percent increase each year just for the construction costs alone.
Herlofsky said the entire project, if approved by the county board, would be done in phases over a five- to 10-year period. He said the county does not have any new buildings and the county needs to look long term at its maintenance and operating costs.
Sluss said the law enforcement area became the top priority because of the additional courts and judges needed in the county. He also said security issues came into play.
"We've put Band-Aids on these things and they no longer stick," he said. "This concept is for our citizens. They would have an easier one-stop shop (with this plan)."
Sluss said constructing a justice center would free up the third floor of the courthouse for other departments to use.
The commissioners also asked about a referendum process for the building project. Ryan said the county could have the voters decide on the entire project or on a certain percentage of it.
According to state law, Ryan said a referendum is not needed in cases where a jail would be built or by court order.
After a lengthy discussion, the building committee decided to recommend the county board approve the preliminary schedule of the building project. The schedule proposes construction beginning June 28, 2004.
The committee also recommended the county board appoint Luukkonen to continue to serve as the committee chair through the building project. It also recommended that all county commissioners be appointed to the building committee during this time.
Ryan asked who would be manage the project for the county.
"Who will be in charge, Roy (Luukkonen) or Peter (Herlofsky)?" he asked. "The county board needs to make a decision on this. You can't have two leaders."
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