County looks at courthouse options

MARSHALL – The prospect of remodeling the Lyon County courtrooms in the county government center will require some big decisions, Lyon County Board members said. Rather than act on some preliminary concept designs presented Tuesday, county commissioners are taking some time to consider them and seek public feedback in the weeks ahead.

The Lyon County District Court is in need of more space, partly to accommodate paperless court records technology in the courtrooms. At their regular meeting Tuesday, commissioners heard a presentation on possible renovation options from Steve Johnson of Vetter Johnson Architects. Johnson said architects consulted with court staff to help determine their needs for space and security in the courtroom areas. They also took into account factors like acoustics that help make a courtroom more functional.

Johnson said the concepts he was presenting were “very preliminary. We’re not even on schematic designs.”

Johnson said the bad news was that with the existing government center’s support columns and ceiling heights, it would be difficult to remodel new courtrooms to meet the court’s needs.

Johnson said building an addition to the government center would give extra room for larger courtrooms, and Southwest Health and Human Services and county office space could also be updated and rearranged. The exterior of the building would use concrete and red brick similar to that in the existing government center.

However, even with a building addition there would still be some challenges in finding space, Johnson said. An addition could be built on the east side of the government center, facing Main Street, but that would likely require a zoning change or a variance from the city of Marshall to allow the building to be closer to the street. A building addition could also be placed on the west side of the government center, closer to the Law Enforcement Center. However, Johnson said a significant amount of public parking would have to be demolished to make room for the addition there.

“It takes away fully 100 parking spaces,” he said.

Pete Filippi of Contegrity Group construction management services presented a preliminary cost estimate based on the concept design. Total construction costs of the government center addition could add up to about $7.9 million, he said. With a contingency budget, architectural and engineering costs and construction management fees, the total would rise to about $10.2 million, he said.

“This is an awful lot to digest,” said Commissioner Charlie Sanow. The county would need some time to talk with the city of Marshall and consider financing options as well.

Commissioner consensus was to come back to the matter at their next meeting, July 1. At that time, commissioners said, they would also set a date for a public hearing on the design concept options.

A request from Redwood County also prompted some discussion among board members on Tuesday. Lyon County Environmental Administrator Paul Henriksen said Redwood County was seeking refund of Greater Minnesota Landfill Cleanup Fund payments for 2012 and 2013.

Henriksen explained that in the early 1990s, the state of Minnesota required outstate landfills to collect an amount of about $2 per yard or $6.67 per ton of trash from landfill customers. In Lyon County, those funds were used to develop a financial assurance fund for the landfill, and later Lyon County started refunding Greater Minnesota Landfill Cleanup money to customer counties.

Henriksen said Redwood County was eligible for refund payments starting in 2006, when the county had a solid waste disposal agreement with Lyon County. But when the contract expired in 2011, the refunds for Redwood County also stopped.

Redwood County is currently partnering with Renville County to build a waste sorting and transfer center and help Renville County close its landfill, Henriksen said. However, while Redwood County no longer has a waste disposal agreement with Lyon County, he said it’s still a customer of the Lyon County landfill and has stated it intends to use the landfill for the next 12 months.

“We have to look at this long term,” Henriksen said. “They’re still a customer at the gate, or their consumers are.”

Some commissioners said they were unsure about making the refund payments without an agreement with Redwood County. Commissioner Mark Goodenow said while he wasn’t really against the refund, the situation should probably be the exception, rather than the rule.

“I think the biggest issue here is communication” with Redwood County, said Commissioner Steve Ritter. “We have a number of good collaborations with Redwood County, and we need to keep the door open.”

Ritter moved that Lyon County make the 2012 and 2013 refund payments. The motion passed.