County interviews firms for courtroom remodel

MARSHALL – Building projects were among the main points of action at the Lyon County Board’s regular meeting Tuesday. Commissioners selected an architectural firm to study the Lyon County courtrooms and heard a funding request from the Marshall-Lyon County Library to help with the completion of a children’s wing.

Most of the commissioners’ afternoon was taken up by interviews with representatives of three architectural firms interested in the possible renovation of the Lyon County District Court rooms in the county government center. Court officials have said the current courtrooms are too small and not wired to accommodate technology that will be needed when the state of Minnesota switches to a paperless court records system.

Commissioners interviewed representatives from the firms of Klein-McCarthy, Vetter-Johnson, and Wold Architects. Based on the interviews and presentations, Lyon County Administrator Loren Stomberg said, all three firms appeared “very competent” to address the courtroom issues. After discussion, Stomberg said, commissioners passed a motion to begin negotiating a contract with Vetter-Johnson to conduct a space study of the courtroom area.

Stomberg said the county has worked with Vetter-Johnson in the past. The firm designed the new county jail facilities, as well as renovations for the county court administrator’s offices in the government center.

Stomberg said he hopes to have a proposed contract ready for commissioners to review at their first March meeting.

Earlier in Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners heard an update on the planned construction of a children’s wing for the Marshall-Lyon County Library, as well as a request for funding to help with the expansion. In December, Robert and Phyllis Carr announced they would donate the children’s wing, to complete the new library’s original design from when it was built in 2011.

Architect Ron Halgerson went over the plans for the 6,000 square-foot children’s wing. Moving the children’s department into a separate wing will open up more space in the library for nonfiction and special collections, Halgerson said. The new wing would also include some additional meeting rooms and a storm shelter for patrons. Halgerson said the new wing would also connect into the existing building’s geothermal heating system. Construction is planned to begin this spring.

Marshall City Administrator Ben Martig said the Carrs’ donation would cover an estimated construction cost of about $1.6 million but not items like furnishings and fixtures, landscaping and possible parking expansion. Including those items, total estimated costs came to about $2.2 million. A draft budget Martig presented to commissioners included both city and privately-raised funds to help pay for non-construction items. However, Martig also asked if the county would be willing to contribute. The draft budget proposed including $51,956 from the county, or about 2 percent of total estimated costs for the children’s wing project. City funds would cover about 8 percent of total costs, he said.

Commissioners’ reactions to the proposal were mainly positive.

“That seems like a pretty good value,” said Commissioner Charlie Sanow of the proposal.

Commissioner Steve Ritter said he thought if the county granted the library’s request, it would have to be through funding set aside in the 2015 budget. He asked if it would be possible to commit to the request and then pay it back later.

Martig said he would be open to that possibility.

Commissioner Rodney Stensrud said he would be in favor of contributing the $51,000, but he thought the county should also consider offering funding to the Minneota and Tracy libraries, as it did in recent years.

“I want everyone else to be treated fairly,” Stensrud said.