WILLMAR — The skylight at the Kandiyohi County Office Building located on Benson Avenue Southwest in downtown Willmar has been a thorn in the side of county facilities director Andy Thorson since the county bought the structure in 2000.

That could be about to change, thanks to unexpected approval from the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners to completely rebuild the skylight, along with replacing the facility's 20-year-old roof.

Thorson spoke at the May 4 County Board meeting to discuss a number of facilities projects and issues.

The county has had issues with the skylight for nearly 20 years, mostly to do with leaks. Those concerns have been getting worse.

The Kandiyohi County Office Building in downtown Willmar will have a new skylight and new roof after the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners approved motions May 4 to undertake the two projects.

Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune
The Kandiyohi County Office Building in downtown Willmar will have a new skylight and new roof after the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners approved motions May 4 to undertake the two projects. Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune

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"We've invested a lot of time and money into it over the years. It is just not in a good state," Thorson said.

He reached out to a few different companies to see what they recommended. One was the original manufacturer of the skylight, who Thorson said was surprised it was still in place.

"They recommended a complete replacement," with a quoted price of approximately $237,000.

A second option, from W.L. Hall, practically rebuilds the skylight from the studs up, for a quoted price of about $116,000. It also replaces the glass panels with a translucent material.

"It would be completely watertight, even in the wintertime," Thorson said.

The translucent panels are also supposed to be four times as energy efficient as the original glass windows, which could mean lower energy costs for the county.

"No more sitting in the lobby and basically getting cooked," Thorson said. "I think there would be substantial energy savings there also."

Thorson recommended going with the option from W.L. Hall. At the same time he was looking into the skylight project, he also got quotes to replace the roof, which had been planned for next year. The quote from West Central Roofing of Willmar, for $82,000, was a pleasant surprise.

"That was quite a bit less than what I originally estimated," Thorson said, who thought the roof would cost closer to $130,000.

While a skylight project was not in the county's budget at all and the roof was supposed to be done in 2022, County Administrator Larry Kleindl said the county has the money to do the projects, thanks to savings from the Health and Human Services building roofing project.

"We have the dollars in the reserves to do that," Kleindl said.

While the decision to do the two major building repair projects might seem like snap judgments, Commissioner Corky Berg said it makes sense to do it now, especially due to how quickly building material costs are rising.

"This has been talked about for some time, we knew it was there," Berg said. "With the economy and what is happening, it is probably a very good idea and good motions to lock into that."

Also approved May 4 was awarding the low bid for the county courthouse window project to Val Pro Windows, with a bid of $372,446. The project will replace the existing windows, many of which are original to the building, with brand new windows. The project has been in the works for a few years.

New windows will be installed at the Kandiyohi County Courthouse after the Val Pro Windows bid of $372,000 was awarded May 4 by the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners.

Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune
New windows will be installed at the Kandiyohi County Courthouse after the Val Pro Windows bid of $372,000 was awarded May 4 by the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners. Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune

Thorson originally estimated the project to cost $400,000, but he said after tweaking the project parameters, he believed it would cost between $330,000 and $340,000. The low bid was higher than the range Thorson gave in his second estimate, but still below the first.

"Well, you know how it is for building materials today," Thorson said.

A timeline for the project hasn't been nailed down yet, though Thorson hopes work can be done this year.

One facilities project that is nearing completion is the upgrade to the ventilation system in the courthouse. The new chiller has been installed and Thorson said he'll be coming to the County Board soon for approval to send out the final payment.

"It is working fabulous," Thorson said.