Sticker shock leads Yellow Medicine County to tap the brakes on Highway Department office project

Sticker shock over the estimated cost to replace the 1967 office of the Yellow Medicine County Highway Department — construction costs are estimated at $295 per square foot — have led the County Board to move cautiously.

The Yellow Medicine County Highway Department office was built in 1967.
The Yellow Medicine County Highway Department office was built in 1967. The County Board wants to hear more information at its next meeting after members were this week presented with a $2.5 million estimate for construction of a new office building. The plan also would include “upsizing” the utilities at the Highway Department site in Granite Falls to accommodate future improvements to the adjoining shop and storage buildings.
Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune

GRANITE FALLS — Sticker shock is leading the Yellow Medicine County Board of Commissioners to look closely at plans for replacing the county’s Highway Department office and, eventually, upgrading the adjoining shop and equipment storage buildings.

Wold Architects and Engineers, of St. Paul, provided a $2.5 million estimate for the first phase of the project to the commissioners on Tuesday. The first phase includes construction of a new office building, as well as “upsizing” the utilities at the Highway Department site in Granite Falls to accommodate future improvements to the adjoining shop and storage buildings. The total includes architectural and inspection fees as well as fully furnishing the office structure.

The new building will be of metal construction, slab on grade, and joined to the existing building at the site.

“Inflation is tough,” said John McNamara, with Wold, after hearing the commissioners express concerns about the costs.

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Construction represents $1.95 million of the total estimate. Construction costs are estimated at $295 per square foot. That per-square-foot cost was based on construction costs reported on similar projects in this area, according to County Administrator Angie Steinbach.


The Highway Department office was constructed in 1967 and there have been very few upgrades since its opening, according to the administrator. The heating, cooling and ventilation and electrical systems are a concern.

“We’re on borrowed time,” Steinbach said.

During discussions, the commissioners noted that they had looked at the option of remodeling, and it did not appear to be feasible.

Commissioner John Berends said he was not ready to approve the current design based on his concerns over the higher-than-anticipated cost estimate. He said he’d like more time before moving ahead, and expressed hope that the construction market is softening.

During discussions, Commissioner Greg Renneke noted the importance of the department’s facilities to the maintenance and care of very expensive equipment. He also cited the importance of a good work environment for retaining and attracting employees.

McNamara and Jacob Wallensak with Wold said the estimates are based on an original plan of calling for bids this spring to allow for the start of construction in late summer or early fall. They cautioned against delaying a decision too long. Costs would rise significantly if the work is pushed too far into the winter.

It was also noted during discussions that money has not been set aside for replacing the existing HVAC and electrical systems were they to fail.

The county may be able to take on all or most of the project costs by tapping reserves and other unappropriated funds, as well as the capital improvement funds that have been set aside for the project, according to Dana Homan, finance director. She will provide a report on the financial options to the commissioners at their next meeting.


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Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoors reporter for the West Central Tribune.
He has been a reporter with the West Central Tribune since 1993.

Cherveny can be reached via email at or by phone at 320-214-4335.
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