County to move forward with remodelingWork could be delayed due to financial worries WORTHINGTON — Nobles County Commissioners will move forward with a request for bids for the remodeling of the third floor of the Nobles County Government Center in Worthington, but the work may be put on hold in light of the current economic downturn.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Nobles County Commissioners will move forward with a request for bids to remodel the third floor of the Nobles County Government Center in Worthington, but the work may be put on hold in light of the current economic downturn.
The remodeling project would include replacing the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, moving administration offices adjacent to the board room and providing more space for the public health offices. Plans are also to create a second exit for the board room — a safety measure discussed in recent months following a fatal shooting inside the Morrison County board room in June 2008.
Plans have already been designed for the remodel, with an engineer’s estimate of $232,000. County Administrator Mel Ruppert said the funding was approved by commissioners in the 2009 budget, and that no additional tax dollars were levied for the project.
Yet before commissioners had an opportunity to vote on the request for bids, Sheriff Kent Wilkening asked to offer his comments on the proposal. He said the discussion began with the construction of a second exit for the board room “that will probably be used once in a lifetime” and mushroomed into a complete third-floor remodel.
“The governor is asking counties to watch their spending. The county board here … (is) asking department heads to watch their spending,” said Wilkening. “I think by the board doing this, it’s not very fiscally responsible. Until the levy limits go off, I think the project should be put on hold.”
Wilkening said he understands the need for board safety, and offered to have a deputy post guard at the door to the board room. He said paying a part-time officer at the overtime rate would cost the county about $3,500 per year.
“It would take you 52 years to use the money you’re going to use on this remodeling project,” Wilkening said. “I’m speaking as not only an elected chair for the county, but as a taxpayer, that this project be put on hold or postponed until the levy limits are off and everybody knows what’s going to happen with state funding.”
Commissioner and board chair David Benson said he appreciated Wilkening’s comments, but that the board has looked at this issue for the past four years.
“We do have some severe needs for public health,” said Benson of the lack of space for the agency. The proposed remodel would transfer about 30 percent of the space occupied by administration to public health.
“We are in (tough) economic times,” said Commissioner Marv Zylstra. While the project would stimulate jobs, he said it is “something the board is going to need to discuss further.”
“I tend to agree with Kent (Wilkening), if for no other reason than the signal we’re sending,” added Commissioner Norm Gallagher. “I just feel that now may be not the right time to be spending $230,000.”
Commissioner Diane Thier agreed.
“We all want to be safe,” she said. “On the other hand, we’re asking all departments to cut, to watch where they spend…. Maybe we should watch it a little bit, too.”
In other action, the board:
l Approved a request from Wilkening to hire a full-time jailor to fill a vacancy in the Nobles County Jail. The request comes after county commissioners asked to have input in filling staff vacancies due to the tight economy. The jail has a staff of 22 full-time and three to four part-time jailers, with a daily average of 63 people incarcerated.
“We’re not going to micromanage, but we thought we should look at each of these,” said Benson of the request to refill the position.
l Approved three-year contracts with the Teamsters Local 320 (Family Service employees) and A.F.S.C.M.E. Council 65 (highway department employees) that will include a cost of living adjustment (COLA) of 1.5 percent on Feb.1, 1.5 percent on July 1; 1.5 percent each on Jan. 1 and July 1, 2010; and 3 percent on Jan. 1, 2011.
l Discussed arranging meetings with Ehlers and Associates of Roseville, and Northland Securities, Inc., of Minneapolis, to review bond funding. The county is interested in pursuing bonding for the completion of transportation projects.
l Voted to forego the county’s interest in two lots in the bio-science park, which will be developed for a motel and event center.