County eyes new parking lot on Front Street
When the Becker County Board decided to proceed with plans for a courthouse addition, city regulations required that additional parking spaces be provided.
The county negotiated with the city to provide 100 new parking spaces, then purchased the property formerly occupied by the Berean Baptist Church for the purpose of constructing a new parking lot.
The new lot, once completed, will provide 74 parking spaces; however, that still leaves 26 spaces that the county will need to fill.
On Tuesday, the commissioners discussed the possibility of partnering with the city to construct a new city-county lot on Front Street, between Minnesota and Summit.
"The city would like to partner with us to establish a parking lot south of the Human Services Building," said County Administrator Brian Berg. "I felt it would be a good project to do some more research on."
The location would provide easy parking access for not only the courthouse, but also the Detroit Lakes Community & Cultural Center and the human services building.
"I think it's a good spot (to build)," said Commissioner Barry Nelson.
The rest of the board agreed, and asked Berg to continue looking into the matter.
In other business, the commissioners approved a request from County Attorney Mike Fritz to contract with two attorneys to provide representation for parents in child protection cases, at a set rate of $1,200 per month, or $28,800 per year.
When the state cut funding for public defenders in July of this year, that left Becker County obligated to provide the statutorily required representation.
"I'm not aware of any county that has challenged the county's responsibility to pay (for public defender representation in child protection cases)," Fritz said, noting that he feels any such challenge would be unlikely to succeed.
Since the funding was cut in July, the county has been contracting with three different attorneys at a rate of $50 per hour to provide the services; however, Fritz noted, the amount of time required for each case differs widely, which makes an hourly rate impractical.
Fritz met with District Court judges Peter Irvine and Joe Evans, as well as Court Administrator Jan Cossette to determine what could be done, and they indicated "they were sympathetic and would work with us."