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County renovation project moves forward

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WORTHINGTON -- Nobles County Commissioners on Tuesday accepted the low bid on the third floor remodeling of the Nobles County Government Center in Worthington, and will move forward with the project this year.

Salonek Concrete and Construction, Inc. of Springfield submitted the low bid for the work, at $153,426. The amount was $78,500 less than the engineer's estimate of $232,000.

Steve Robinson of Short Elliot Hendrickson, Inc. (SEH) said eight bids were submitted for the project, which will include relocating the administration office adjacent to the Commissioners' board room; relocating the Nobles-Rock Community Health offices; replacing the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system on third floor; and installing a second exit door for the board room.

"The low bid was 30 percent below our estimate," said Robinson, adding that the bids represent a new bidding environment in today's economy.

"We're seeing a decrease slightly in the materials -- copper and some of the metals have come back down," Robinson said. "I think a lot of it is the labor is decreasing and the contractors are narrowing their margins."

"This is an extremely good time to get a bid out, as far as I'm concerned," said Commissioner Vern Leistico. He said Salonek worked on the expansion project at St. Matthew's Lutheran Church in Worthington, and the company was "very good to work with."

Salonek also submitted a bid on an alternate project offered in the request for bids to replace the lights and add dimmer switches for NRCHS. The bid of $5,660 was rejected by commissioners, who said the work wasn't necessary.

The board decided in January to move ahead with the request for bids on the remodeling project, but did not commit to the project at that time because of the county's economic concerns.

Sheriff Kent Wilkening urged the board at that time to hold off on the project in light of the county's request that department heads look for areas to cut spending within their departments.

Wilkening, who attended Tuesday's meeting, again asked commissioners to put the project on hold.

"I'm voicing my concerns about doing this project now," Wilkening said. "I would encourage the commissioners to think very long about doing this project now when we're looking at cuts to some departments."

Commissioner Marv Zylstra said he had received comments from constituents concerned about the timing of the remodeling project as well. However, the funds for the project are earmarked in a special building fund, and can not be transferred into the general fund.

"The thing I want to get on record is that we need more room for public health," said Commissioner Diane Thier. "This door that they talked about (the second exit for the board room), I don't think it's going to cost more than $500 for us."

Commissioner David Benson, unable to attend Tuesday's meeting but joining the commissioners via telephone, said the need for more space in public health has been an ongoing issue for the past four years.

"These are issues I know we're going to face," Benson said. "We have very favorable bids and, although I won't be able to vote, I would support this."

Commissioners cast a unanimous vote to move forward with the project.

In other action, the board:

l Received a request from the City of Adrian for financial assistance to help establish a telepharmacy in the Adrian Government Center.

Bruce Heitkamp, Adrian City Administrator, said the community is working with Sterling Drug of Worthington to establish a pharmacy that would allow a pharmacist to provide adequate consultation to clientele via video and teleconferencing equipment. Plans are to have a pharmacy technician on staff at the Adrian location.

"In the last year, our city council has really taken a look at health care," said Heitkamp. When the town's only pharmacy closed a year ago, he said it left residents scrambling for services.

"The clinic in Adrian was concerned about the ability to provide prescriptions to their clientele," Heitkamp said.

Already the City of Adrian has been approved for a $50,000 Light Speed grant from the Blandin Foundation, and it was approved for a $25,000 loan from the Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp. Heitkamp said the city was looking to the county for another piece of financing for the project. The money would cover the estimated $100,000 cost for the telepharmacy equipment. The cost represents roughly one-fourth of the total project cost.

Commissioners voiced support for the telepharmacy and directed the county administrator to work with the WREDC and the City of Adrian to finalize the funding plan.

l Approved a request from the City of Bigelow to pay for the city's share of the cost of the storm sewer construction project. Bigelow will reimburse the county over a period of five years, including interest. Bigelow's share of the work is approximately $55,000 to $60,000, and will be paid for through the county highway department's undesignated reserve funds.

l Authorized advertisement for bids for pavement marking services. Nobles County again will partner with area counties in hopes of getting better bid prices.

l Approved a diagonal parking plan on County State Aid Highway 24 in front of the community center in Bigelow.

l Approved township road allocations for 2009 totaling $317,696.

l Authorized receipt of the 2007 Homeland Security Grant for Emergency Feedlot Data program. The $3,000 grant will provide the county's Emergency Services department with $1,200 worth of GIS training, a new computer for the feedlot office and two hand-held GPS units. The equipment will allow the department to update its GIS inventory and include data on all livestock farms within the county.

l Received an annual report from the Private Industry Council regarding program caseloads and financing.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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