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Courthouse bids come in at $6.2 million

By reworking the design and re-bidding the project, Becker County has whittled the cost of the courthouse addition to $6.2 million from original bids of about $9 million.

"I've never in my life seen a project go from $9 million to $6 million and kept the same square footage," said Commissioner Bob Bristlin, a construction contractor who serves on the county's building committee.

"We also accomplished the fact that we kept the courthouse in downtown Detroit Lakes where it belongs,' said Commissioner Harry Salminen.

The new courts wing will provide a third courtroom for a busy district court schedule, and it will improve safety and privacy for all involved in the court system, Salminen added.

Other commissioners gave Bristlin much of the credit for the improved bids.

"I know this is election season, but I have to give Bob credit," said Commissioner Barry Nelson. "He'll tell you if it (a bid) is excessive or if you can do it cheaper."

Commissioner Larry Knutson agreed. "With Bob's background in construction, he has just been a hawk on this thing," he said.

County Administrator Brian Berg said the three-story addition to the north side of the courthouse will provide much-needed improvements to the court system.

"We've been a little lacking here," he said. "Not everyone in the county will agree with you -- you're spending a lot of taxpayer money, but you're spending it wisely."

General contractor for the project will be Roers Construction with a bid of $4.21 million. There were five other bidders.

Peterson Sheet Metal won the mechanical bid at $1.24 million. There were nine other bidders.

Dakota Electrical won the electrical bid at $700,300. There were three other bidders.

G&R Controls won the sub controls bid at $84,300. There were three other bidders.

The county board agreed to bond up to $6 million to pay for the project.

"It's going to have to be (a combination of) bonding and reserves to pay for this project," Berg said. "We're not sure of the total amount yet, (but) we have the luxury of using some reserves."

The four-level addition (including the basement) on the north side of the courthouse will provide new courtrooms, administrative offices and storage, and meeting rooms for jurors, attorneys, witnesses and defendants.

It is designed to provide a secure environment and to separate inmates from other players in the court system.

About three-fourths of the basement will be given over to three large areas: the law library (2,226 square feet), an administrative storage area (3,624 square feet), and a mechanical room (3,040 square feet).

The rest of the basement will hold hallways, elevator shafts, elevator equipment rooms, a stairwell, a break room, an exhibit area and a public defender's work room.

There will be three basement elevators: one for the public and court personnel, and two for inmates -- connected by a secure corridor.

In order to keep inmates separated from everyone else, they will be brought from the jail along a 1,364 square foot walkway attached to the eastern side of the second floor, and take a new elevator to the "master" courtroom on the first floor, where arraignments will be held.

If they are to use one of two smaller courtrooms on the second floor, they will take the first elevator to the basement, go through a secure basement corridor, then go up another new elevator to the second floor.

The first floor will be roughly divided between a 2,446-square-foot open work area for court administration staff, and the master courtroom.

The secure master courtroom will be 1,876 square feet and will also have offices for a judge and court reporter, storage rooms, an employee bathroom, two holding cells and a prisoner visitation room as well as secure transfer rooms and hallways.

In addition to the open work area, the court administration side will also have two offices, a storage area, a conference room and an employee bathroom.

A secure public entrance on the west side of the building has been moved and will be placed on the main floor of the existing courthouse near the main entrance.

The second floor will have twin 1,693-square-foot courtrooms with jury boxes, each courtroom with several meeting rooms, jury deliberation rooms, and offices and bathrooms for judges and court personnel.

Between the courtrooms will be a secure area for prisoners, including inmate holding cells and a secure attorney-client meeting room. One courtroom will have a media room with a two-way mirror.

The third floor will be roughly divided in half between the county attorney's office -- with conference rooms, private offices, work stations, a break room and bathroom and storage areas -- and a 2,202-square-foot jury assembly area.

The area includes two storage rooms and a kitchenette area, as well as a county clerk work area, public restrooms and other office space.

It is designed to convert easily into a fourth courtroom if necessary in the future.

With parking, furnishings and renovation to the existing courthouse, the total cost of the project is expected to be about $9 million, Berg said.

Construction will start on the addition in the spring.