2016-04-28 / Front Page

Architect shows design for Wadena courthouse

By Rin Porter
Wadena County reporter

Architect Tony Stoll, of BHH Partners, Perham, offered his preliminary design for the interior of the proposed courthouse annex to the Wadena County Board at its April 19 meeting.

Stoll was asked less than a month ago to provide a design and estimated costs to the board as soon as possible. The design depicts a rectangular building with dimensions of 96’ x 58’, for a total of 5,568 sq ft. The estimated cost of the building is between $170 and $185 per square foot, or about $1.1 million, not including the cost of items such as the land, new parking lot, furniture, or interior systems like phones and computers.

Stoll’s site plan had two options for placement of the new building: (1) about 40 feet north of the existing courthouse, or (2) to the west of the courthouse grounds on property that is currently owned by private individuals.

The interior of the annex would be divided into two parts – one for the county attorney’s office and one for community corrections – with separate entrances and secured areas for each department.

Commissioners discussed the design with Stoll and County Engineer Ryan Odden. Odden will be the project liaison for the county. The board asked Odden and Stoll to return on May 3 with a formal resolution to proceed with the project, a schedule of its phases from design to completion, and a recommendation for which of the two proposed locations should be chosen.

The commissioners, Stoll and Odden agreed that it would be desirable to have the building shell completed “by the opening of deer hunting” next November.

Also at the April 19 meeting, Human Services Director Tanya Leskey and several supervisors from her department appeared before the board to give monthly reports and staffing updates. Leskey also presented her plans for remodeling several portions of the building where the department is located.

Leskey discussed four phases of remodeling that are to take place over the next two years. Phase 1 will be done this year. It includes reconfiguring a stairwell and one wall of the interior, reconfiguring the reception area, remodeling the building’s public entrance, and several other changes estimated to cost between $97,000 and $105,000. The remodeling costs were included in the human services 2016 budget approved last fall. Commissioners voted to approve Phase 1 of the remodeling project, using Vercon, Inc., as construction manager, and Sentence To Serve workers for demolition and other aspects of the project, when possible.

Leskey asked the board for time to discuss reorganizing the procedure for her monthly reports, including allotting more time – up to two hours – so that she and her staff can include all the necessary information the board needs. Commissioner Bill Stearns endorsed the request, while Commissioner Dave Hillukka indicated he did not think so much time was needed.

As an example of items she needs to present, Leskey described the changes in the relationship of her department to Medica – one of the current health insurers that had delegated medical care coordination for about 200 residents of Wadena County to Leskey’s department. Medica is going to take back the function of care coordination, effective July 1, which will mean that Leskey’s department will lose annual revenue of about $53,000. Leskey was concerned that the change would mean difficulties for county residents who are affected by it.

As another example of information the board should know, Leskey explained how the care of one adult county resident and one juvenile county resident currently committed to locked mental health facilities in Minnesota, are costing the county $ 2,300 per day, or over $140,000 since January 4, 2016, because they are not being treated in “appropriate treatment facilities”. The facilities that the two individuals are in are not covered by Medicaid because they are not considered “appropriate treatment facilities” for the two individuals’ care, yet there are no beds available in lower-cost, more appropriate facilities elsewhere. The county is responsible for the entire cost of the two individuals’ mental health care while they are not in “appropriate treatment facilities”, Leskey explained.

The lack of mental health beds is due to the Minnesota Legislature’s failure to allocate sufficient funding for staffing of community mental health care facilities, thus putting counties on the hook for the entire cost of care of mentally ill individuals.

In other business, the board

o Held a closed meeting to discuss offers or counter offers for the purchase of real property located in the 400 block of Jefferson Street S. o Approved a grant application from the Friendly Rider Transit Service to the Staples Motley Community Foundation to fund transit passes for 25 youth to attend summer rec programs. o Heard a presentation on the merit system of human resources management. o Approved spending $1,500 for Election Judge Training via a computer software program. o Approved a special permit for the Red River Valley Enduro Riders event to be held in the Huntersville State Forest on June 18 and 19, 2016. o Approved a process for loaning the Wadena County Ag Society $200,000 to complete the construction of facilities at the fairgrounds that would bring to an end the reconstruction of buildings and equipment destroyed by the June 17, 2010 tornado. FEMA agreed to reimburse the county for the funds when the facilities are completed. o Heard the annual report of Dave Anderson, Veterans’ Service Officer.

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