YMC Board to advertise bids for office remodel

GRANITE FALLS – After a presentation by representatives of Wold Architects and Engineers and the Contegrity Group Inc. Construction Management Services, the Yellow Medicine County Board voted 3-2 on Tuesday to go forward and advertise bids for an extensive remodeling of the Fagen building.

The county bought the Fagen building last October for $450,000 to remodel for county government offices. Since then, there have been unexpected extra expenses when an inspection revealed the roof would have to be replaced as part of the remodel.

According to a budget review by Contegrity, the estimated cost of the remodeling project comes to about $717,600. Optional alternates involving work on the east office area and exterior drive-through would add another $25,000 to the project.

Commissioner Gary Johnson, voting against advertising the bids, argued for waiting another two weeks to consider the plans.

“I don’t make decisions on three-quarters of a million dollars on an hour’s viewing,” Johnson said.

Commissioner Louis Sherlin joined Johnson in voting to delay a decision until the next meeting.

After a discussion with retired County Parks Director Myron Hagelstrom, the board voted to advertise for a new park director to see if there was any interest in the position.

Hagelstrom retired after 33 years in the part-time position at the end of last year and has been donating his services free of charge to help the county transition to a arrangement for park maintenance. The board discussed alternatives, such as folding the duties of the park department into the highway department.

After an emotional appeal from Veterans Services Office Michelle Gatz, the county approved her request to upgrade the position of her assistant from a 19-hour-per-week position to 30 hours. At issue were benefits, which by union contract kick in at 20 hours per week. Upgrading the position to full time would add $16,000 to the expense of maintaining the $13.93 per hour position.

Gatz pointed out that when she took over the position 12 years ago there were only five active benefits claims, bringing in about $400,000 to county veterans. Today there are 105 active claims involving benefits of about $3 million.

Gatz argued that with changes in regulations making veterans claims harder to process, veterans would suffer from delays and denied claims that have to be appealed under the office’s present workload.