The Redwood County Board of Commissioners received a more detailed report of the proposed justice center project during its June 18 meeting when John McNamara of Wold Architects presented the design development progress.

According to McNamara, the plan is beginning to take greater shape, as he has been meeting with department heads that will have offices in the justice center, adding those conversations will continue to occur.

McNamara said the project is facing a new challenge, as the current courthouse building is farther north on the property than was originally thought, but McNamara stated that will not be an issue until much later in the project.

“The courthouse will be six feet away from the construction, which will be tight,” said McNamara, adding the plan would be to do most of the construction of the new justice center building, demolish the current courthouse and then finish up the main entrance area on the south side of the building.

McNamara took the board through the current building layout explaining in more detail not only where the offices, courtrooms and conference rooms would roughly be, but he also provided some drawings of what the larger courtroom, Courtroom A, could look like.

Security continues to be a priority of the work, said McNamara, who also showed a more detailed look at the link between the justice center and the law enforcement center. 

The current plan would be to match the justice center’s exterior with that of the law enforcement center, adding the idea is to keep that part of the project fairly simple.

There are lots of windows that have been added in the justice center to allow for plenty of natural light, said McNamara, adding the work that is being done is also taking into consideration the idea of making the building easy to maintain.

McNamara added there have also been some discussions related to how the new building will recognize the old courthouse, adding there is currently a space in the main lobby area for a space that would focus on that history.

Bob Van Hee, county commissioner, asked about the distance between the proposed building and the parking lot, adding some concern about the distance for older people with wheelchairs and walkers. McNamara said there is a possibility of moving the parking lot area closer to the main entrance, but he added there are also code requirements that have to be followed.

Following the presentation about the look of the courthouse, McNamara then went over the budget, adding that at this point the project is estimated to be higher than the most recent information the board had received. When McNamara last talked with the board in March the cost for the construction of the justice center was $5.8 million, but as the process has been designed in more detail that estimate has increased to $6.95 million, with a total cost of $8.6 million – approximately $1 million more than the March estimate.

There are ways to cut that cost, said McNamara, adding the team working on the project continues to look for ways to do that.

One of the ideas McNamara presented would be to move away from using block and brick for the walls of the building to the use of metal studs and a brick facade. McNamara said masons who could do the block and brick and block work are getting harder to find.

The building committee will meet with McNamara to discuss that idea further, with the plan for the county board to make a decision regarding that during its July 2 meeting.

McNamara said the schedule continues to be on track, adding, according to that plan, bid documents would go out in September, with construction commencing in November.

Lon Walling, county commissioner, wondered if it might be a better idea to wait and have the project bid in the spring, as he was concerned about starting a project in the fall.

Dennis Groebner, county commissioner, said he believes they will get better bids for the project in the fall.

McNamara said the bid documents could include a request for a bid that would have the work start in November and one starting next spring.

McNamara also presented a report on the progress of the human services building project, adding he has had good meetings with the department heads who will have space in that building.

In other action during its meeting, the county board:

• Approved a request from Keith Berndt, county engineer, to purchase a box culvert from Fortera Concrete Products in the amount of $88,800 for a project on CSAH 4. Berndt said he has learned there is a backlog of demand for box culverts, adding having the county purchase the item now would put them on the list sooner than would happen after the bid process for the project.

• Awarded a gravel contract to Duininck, Inc. for Class 1 gravel at a rate of $10.25 per ton and Class 2 gravel at a rate of $8.75 per ton. Berndt put out a request for bids for gravel under the assumption that the county may be re-questing larger quantities of material to help address roadway needs. The awarding of this contract does not mean the county won’t be using other sources for gravel.