WORTHINGTON — Days after hearing of the struggles to find an operator for a proposed eight-bed mental health crisis center at the former KidsPeace Prairie Academy, Nobles County commissioners on Tuesday authorized a request for proposals seeking an architect to complete a design showing the renovations needed to retrofit the facility.

Completing the design and specifications for the proposed center will help the county meet its goal of having the facility ready by the end of 2022.

Nobles County Community Services Director Stacie Golombiecki said a basic conceptual design was completed by architects with Avera several years ago in order to apply for a state grant. The county was awarded nearly $847,000 in 2018 for the remodel with no matching funds required.

Nobles County Administrator Tom Johnson said Avera recommended the names of three firms that could complete the design work. A two-phase approach is recommended, with this first step to get the design to an 80% level. Once an operator is selected, the final design could be completed.

Southern Prairie Community Care, a multi-county health care collaborative, unanimously supports the county’s efforts and voted to contribute $100,000 toward hiring an operator for the facility.

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Commissioner Donald Linssen said a short-term mental health crisis facility is greatly needed in the area, as individuals are currently being transported as far as Duluth and Fargo, North Dakota, for these services.

“Those costs are out there, plus there’s the inconvenience to families and getting them back for hearings,” Linssen said. “It’s got to be tough for the patient to be bounced around like that.”

In other action, the board:

  • Authorized a 12% increase in the maximum rate paid to funeral homes for burials of indigent county residents, with a 2.5% annual increase in future years. Community Services Director Stacie Golombiecki said her office received a request to increase the maximum payment to funeral homes due to the rising costs of materials for final disposition. The last update to the county’s burial plan was in 2017. In addition to the increase, commissioners also included a $50 fee per coroner call. Golombiecki said the county’s annual budget for burials is $50,000, which has not been exceeded for the past several years. She also noted that some of the dollars are recouped if the deceased has assets that can be used toward final arrangements.

  • Approved 5-year tax abatement on the construction of two new homes — one for Alan and Ellen Henning, and the other for Bruce and Kate McCann. These were applications 100 and 101 through the Nobles Home Initiative.

  • Approved, in a 4-1 vote with Commissioner Justin Ahlers in opposition, work on the Judicial Ditch 8 tile line. There is an insufficient depth of soil covering the tile line, which could result in damage to the line with implements driving over it. Plans are to take soil from the fields of landowners involved to cover the tile line, reducing the costs for the overall project. Ahlers said he supported the basis for the project, but wanted to get an updated opinion from drainage attorney Kurt Deter, who weighed in on the subject a year ago. Ahlers also said the matter should be presented at a landowner meeting, as the funds to pay for the work will come from the ditch system.

  • Amended the Prairie Justice Center’s operating agreement with the city of Worthington, reflecting an increase in the city’s shared costs of the facility from 12.89% to 15.97%.

  • Approved the purchase of a fire suppression system for the Nobles County Data Center at a cost of $26,157, from Justice Fire & Safety, Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

  • Declared a 1996 Ford F250 as surplus property to be sold through an online auction.

  • Approved an agreement contracting for a law library custodian at a rate of $250 per month. Elijah Dooyema was hired to maintain the books and information sources in the law library, with an effective date of March 23, continuing through Dec. 31.

  • Presented the March Excellence in Performance award to Allison Heidebrink, administrative assistant, for her work with the county’s COVID Relief grant program.

  • Approved an agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation regarding compensation to the county for the use of detour routes during reconstruction of the three roundabouts on Worthington’s east side this summer.

  • Appointed Trysten Olson, Worthington, to the Nobles County Park Board.