Weather Forecast


Yellow Medicine moves on new courthouse

The Yellow Medicine County board of commissioners are moving forward with plans to build a new facility to replace the 1889 and 1970s addition of the courthouse. A soldier in a war memorial park outside the courthouse is shown. Tribune photo by Tom Cherveny

GRANITE FALLS — Yellow Medicine County is moving forward on its building needs by going back to where it left off.

The county board of commissioners instructed County Administrator Peggy Heglund on Tuesday to contact Fagen Construction, Granite Falls, and the Contegrity Group Inc., Little Falls. They are asking the two firms to submit proposals to serve as construction manager for a project to replace and demolish the 1889 courthouse and 1970s addition to it.

Fagen Construction served as general contractor when the county built a $4 million facility on the courthouse grounds in 2001-02. The three-story building holds the county’s 38-bed jail and law enforcement offices and its human services department.

Contegrity Group served more recently as construction manager when the county remodeled a former bank building in downtown Granite Falls to hold county offices, including property management. An open house for the office building is being held April 22.

In discussions on Tuesday, the commissioners said they were pleased with the roles both firms played in the previous projects, and are interested in selecting one to lead the next venture. They also expressed concerns about getting bogged down in a lengthy search for a construction manager by issuing a request for proposals to all available firms.

The commissioners indicated that they wanted to bring a construction manager on board to help them with the next step of selecting an architect for the project.

Wold Architects of St. Paul has provided the county with a study that examined its space needs, the costs of remodeling the existing 1889 and 1970’s buildings, and provided estimates for building new.

The company remains interested in working with the county on the project, the administrator told the commissioners.

The commissioners are apparently not interested in working with a St. Louis, Mo., based firm, CTS Inc., which had asked to be considered as a general contractor for the project. The firm offered to oversee all aspects of the project in return for a guaranteed, overall cost. In a memo to the commissioners, County Attorney Keith Helgeson advised that the firm’s proposal to conduct a closed bidding process did not appear to comply with state statutes.

The board members voted 4 to 1 at their previous meeting to move forward with plans to build new and raze the old structures rather than remodel. The decision came after reviewing the Wold analysis as well as a separate one completed by CTS Group. The work by both companies showed that the county would need to invest $2.1 to $2.4 million in the aged structures just to meet basic needs, such as replacing electrical, plumbing and heating and cooling systems that are beyond their expected life spans.

The estimates varied, but plans to remodel the space to meet the needs of the court system and county offices in the aged buildings were in the range of $4 million to over $5 million, or similar to the costs for building new.

The county can build a new structure without holding a referendum, according to County Attorney Keith Helgeson. In response to questions, he said there was no trigger number at which financing costs would require a referendum.

The commissioners said they have not received a great deal of feedback from constituents about the possibility of building new. The responses they have received have been mixed, with some encouraging them to move forward. Commissioner John Berends said he’s also heard from one person who would like to see the original courthouse buildings preserved.

Commissioner Greg Renneke, who co-authored the earlier motion to move forward, said during the initial discussions that he has mainly received feedback from people encouraging the county to build new. “People say ‘go for it,’” said Renneke. He warned that the county would have to make a major investment in upgrading the aged infrastructure in the original building or, in reference to its condition, he said: “It is going to burn. It will burn down.”

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

(320) 214-4335