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Sub-par materials, construction of Prairie Justice Center leads to costly repairs

Kyle Eberhardt, of Mid Continental Restoration Co. Inc., repairs one of the windows at the Prairie Justice Center Thursday afternoon. (Tim Middagh / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — A new roof and a variety of repair projects at Prairie Justice Center will cost Nobles County approximately $2.3 million this year, but it won’t bring an end to some of the ongoing problems with the 15-year-old facility.

During a Wednesday morning work session with county commissioners, construction manager Craig Skorczewski of the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership reported concerns with the through wall flashings above the windows.

Two windows were slated for repair work during the initial scope of the project due to leakage. Once contractors removed the flashing and block above those windows, they discovered sub-par materials and sub-par construction were used during window installation when the PJC was built in 2002.

“We have to believe all of the construction is the same,” said Nobles County Administrator Tom Johnson, noting there are approximately 60 windows in the building. He said the windows are in good shape and don’t need replacing, but the flashing will need to be replaced and installed correctly.

Johnson suggested the county do the critical windows at this time. Five have been identified at a repair cost of $13,888. One of those will be installed at unit cost, but the other four are larger and will cost more to fix.

“We probably should take apart a door,” Johnson suggested to commissioners. “If the windows were installed bad, chances are the doors were too.”

If all of the windows and doors are in need of repair, Johnson said the bill would be into “six figures,” adding that his new nickname for the PJC is “The Money Pit.”

Commissioner Justin Ahlers asked if there was any way to go back and collect from the original contractor on the PJC project, but Skorczewski said materials and workmanship are generally guaranteed for just one year.

“Even with a great warranty, it would cost you more to get anything,” Johnson added. “It’s disappointing, but … this building’s got to last 100 years.

“I don’t know what else to say,” he said. “We’ve got a problem.”

In addition to the window repairs and reroofing project at the PJC, commissioners will get a proposal request at next Tuesday’s board meeting to install a new roof drain. The item will likely add another $5,200 to the project.

Other projects at the PJC include tinting windows in the judge’s chambers and courts area, which is slated to begin in mid-October. Contractors will install a security booth inside the front entrance at the same time.

Meanwhile, construction continues on the expansion of the PJC garage. Skorczewski said he’s waiting for the state plumbing review to be completed, which could take up to four weeks.

“We can do everything up to rebar and footings, but no pouring of concrete until the state review (is completed),” he said. The garage addition is slated for completion by Dec. 30.

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 The Farm Bleat

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