County board hears request for courtroom updates

MARSHALL – Lyon County’s district courtrooms have fallen behind in terms of technology and space, officials speaking at Tuesday’s county board meeting said. Getting them caught up with current needs, and ready to handle future ones, will likely be a big job.

County commissioners revisited the issue of possibly remodeling the courtrooms on the third floor of the Lyon County Government Center. District Court Judges Michelle Dietrich and Leland Bush and Lyon County Court Administrator Karen Bierman addressed the board.

Dietrich said the Lyon County district court is facing some major technological upgrades in the near future. The Minnesota courts system is going paperless, switching over from using physical court files to electronic records.

“It’s not something we can opt out of,” Dietrich said.

The switch to a paperless system means that more computer workstations would need to be present in the courtrooms, and Dietrich said that’s a wiring challenge too big for the current courtrooms. Bush and Bierman said space is also a problem. Changes in court administration rules mean more staff members need to be present for court proceedings. Attorneys also frequently work in teams now, Bierman said. Add computer workstations into the mix, and things become very cramped.

Court officials said they didn’t have specific proposals or cost estimates to address those problems. A space study would probably be necessary to figure out a solution, they said.

Commissioners were receptive to the idea, although they pointed out that renovating the courtrooms would create other, logistical problems.

“If we remodel, where will you go (in the meantime)?” asked County Board Chairman Rick Anderson.

Bush said Pipestone County temporarily moved its court proceedings offsite while courthouse renovations were being done. Other spaces at the Government Center might also be available, but they’d be better suited to court proceedings with a smaller number of participants, Bush said.

The commissioners’ consensus was to form a committee to address the issue and look at having a study of the courtroom space done.

A question regarding the board’s meeting minutes from Aug. 27 led to a more specific definition of the 2014 preliminary county levy. At that meeting, commissioners passed a motion to set the preliminary levy at the maximum allowed by the state. At the time, it was calculated that the maximum allowed levy would be $12,730,746, said Lyon County Administrator Loren Stomberg. However, County Auditor/Treasurer E.J. Moberg said updated calculations showed a maximum net levy of about $13.1 million. Stomberg wanted to know if the minutes needed to be corrected to reflect the actual maximum levy.

Commissioner Mark Goodenow said the motion from the previous meeting was to set the preliminary levy at the maximum allowed amount. Striking the levy figures from the motion could correct it. However, the question after that became whether commissioners wanted to go with the new, higher preliminary levy.

After further discussion, commissioners voted on a new motion to keep the preliminary levy at the $12.7 million level, which Moberg said would be an increase of about 4.66 percent from 2013. The motion passed 4-1, with Charlie Sanow casting the vote against.