$4.7 million project proposed to renovate Griggs County Courthouse with Homeland Security grantA proposed $4.7 million project to build an addition and renovate the historic Griggs County Courthouse received a big boost from a $988,000 federal grant.
By: Kevin Bonham, Grand Forks Herald
A proposed $4.7 million project to build an addition and renovate the historic Griggs County Courthouse received a big boost today from a $988,000 federal grant.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant will pay 75 percent of the cost of the proposed $1.3 million addition, which will house a new Griggs County Emergency Operations Center.
The project also would provide new offices for the county sheriff’s department, as well as a multi-purpose room for the county and community.
The rest of the $4.7 million, if approved, would pay for renovations to the existing courthouse, which was built in 1883 and remains as North Dakota’s oldest courthouse still functioning in its original use. The building has been the National Register of Historic Places since 1977.
“What a chance-in-a-lifetime opportunity this is for Griggs County to get this EOC grant,” Sheriff Bob Hook said. “The positive financial impact this has on the total project is priceless.”
But the EOC project doesn’t have final approval yet, because it’s part of the larger county project. While the election is Sept. 6, voting already is taking place through the county’s mail-in election process. The project requires a 60-percent majority to pass.
Also on the ballot is a measure for a 10-mill levy for maintenance of farm-to-market roads.
“I’m really ecstatic that we got the grant,” Griggs County Commission Chairwoman Diane Cowdrey said. “It means probably lowering the cost of the project by about $1 million, which will take some of the burden off the taxpayers.”
The actual project is estimated to cost between $3.7 million and $4.2 million, with $500,000 added for contingencies.
Initially, county officials estimated the $4.7 million project would cost taxpayers: $68 annually for every $50,000 of residential property valuation; $75.55 for the same amount of business or farm property; and 60 cents per acre of farmland.
Those numbers likely will be reduced by 25 percent or more.
County officials and architects are continuing to work on the project, in an attempt to further trim costs, according to Hook. The present proposal includes about $1.5 million for equipment and furnishings. The goal is to cut that number by about $500,000.
Health, space problems
The county sheriff and social services offices and their 10 employees have been housed in temporary modular offices in the courthouse parking lot since last fall, when serious mold issues were confirmed in the courthouse.
The environmental report recommends both mold and asbestos abatement programs, which are part of the proposed project.
While the historic building is structurally sound, it lacks handicap accessibility and has inefficient heating and cooling system and needs repairs to the masonry exterior.
“There have been a lot of deferred maintenance problems,” said Mike Burns, an architect with Michael Burns Architects, Moorhead, who has been working with the county off and on since 1981. “They all saw the need to fix things, but none of the commissions took the steps to do the work.”
The project, if approved, likely will not be ready until the spring of 2013. Under the current timetable, it would be bid in early 2012, with construction beginning in April or May of that year, according to Burns.
While the county sheriff’s department would move from the temporary offices to the new EOC building, the social services department will not.
Earlier this year, the county purchased the former Citizens State Bank building in downtown Cooperstown.
Originally, the social services department was scheduled to move in by July. However, during remodeling, some mold issues were discovered in that building, according to Social Services Director Marcia Beglau.
Other issues have caused further delays. She now hopes to be moved by the end of September.
“It’s been a real challenge,” she said.
The new building is about 20 percent smaller than the old social services offices.
“The agency is going to be very happy to have a new home and have one that is going to be efficient in the space that we have and so we can meet the needs of our clients,” she said.
Reach Bonham at (701) 780-1110; (800) 477-6572, ext. 110; or send email to email@example.com.