County hears update on building addition

MARSHALL – Adding on to the Lyon County Government Center is a task that will have some challenges, no matter how it’s approached, County Commissioners learned Tuesday. At their regular meeting, commissioners were presented with a more detailed look at an alternative concept for a possible courts addition.

The current county courtrooms don’t adequately meet the courts’ needs for space and security, and the county board has been looking at its options for expanding the facilities. Steve Johnson of Vetter Johnson Architects had presented commissioners with two possibilities, one that built onto the east side of the Government Center facing Main Street, and one that built onto the west side of the Government Center, close to the Law Enforcement Center. However, until Tuesday, commissioners had only heard details on the first concept.

Johnson said it would be possible to build the court addition closer to the Law Enforcement Center but running along Main Street to preserve some of the Government Center’s existing parking.

“On paper, it looks like it would work very well,” Johnson said. Building in that location would also have the advantage of not disrupting court functions during construction.

The disadvantage, however, would be that the Government Center would only be able to do any further expansion buy building upward. Johnson said that would affect how the addition’s foundations could be built, as well as where its mechanical systems could be placed. Lyon County Administrator Loren Stomberg said there was also the question of what would be done with the old courtroom space once it was vacated.

In the long run, he said, the presented concept might not be less expensive than the estimated $10 million it would take to build the two-story addition on the east side of the Government Center.

Commissioner consensus was that the addition on the east side of the Government Center would be a better option to pursue. However, County Board Chairman Rick Anderson said it was good to get more detail on the second option anyway.

“We needed to look at it,” he said.

Commissioners voted to authorize the development of a more detailed schematic for the building addition.

At Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners also got a look at a draft of the county’s preliminary 2015 budget and levy.

“The first draft is very much that, a draft,” Stomberg said. He said the county has not yet received some important figures that will affect the budget, like the cost of employee health insurance premiums.

The draft budget included a levy of about $13.4 million, a 5.8 percent increase from 2014. A big factor affecting the budget and levy was the projected loss of more than $294,000 in state aid funds for next year – an amount Stomberg said equaled more than 2 percent of the proposed levy. Property values factor into the formula Minnesota uses to calculate state aid to counties, Stomberg said, and land values in Lyon County have risen.

Although the county is considering taking on the cost of building an addition to the Lyon County Government Center and district courtrooms, Stomberg said he thought the county’s debt service could remain the same as in 2014, at $954,000.

Stomberg said a big question for the budget was if commissioners wanted to go ahead with hiring a county information technology position this year. The position was one that commissioners had discussed more than once over the past year, and Commissioner Mark Goodenow noted that the county board had authorized a search for candidates.

Commissioner Steve Ritter said he thought the county needed to move forward on the hire, but also needed to know the financial impact of doing so, as well as how it would affect the county’s current shared IT services with Southwest Health and Human Services.

Commissioners also approved two requests for the Minnesota Department of Transportation to conduct traffic studies on Lyon County Road 10 west of Minneota, and Lyon County Road 8 west of Green Valley.