Grand Forks County Commission bonds $4.99 million for courthouse dome repairs

Repairs have an estimated cost of $3,780,000, according to Tom Ford, county director of administration.

3468399+Grand Forks County Courthouse.JPG
Herald file photo

GRAND FORKS – The Grand Forks County Commission on Tuesday unanimously voted to bond $4,999,000 to fund repairs to the county courthouse dome.

The amount bonded was set at just under $5 million, due to the fact that bonds under $5 million incur $17,000 in administrative fees, while the fee for those exceeding $5 million is $26,000, according to County Auditor Debbie Nelson.

Tom Ford, county director of administration, said the goal will be working toward refurbishing the dome rather than replacing it, as the latter has a $5 million price tag versus a $3,870,000 price tag for refurbishing.

Commissioner Cynthia Pic said that while she agrees with the need to refurbish the dome, the county must ensure it has funds to increase employee compensation.

“Buildings don’t come before people,” Pic said. “We can’t keep telling our employees that we don’t have the money to increase compensation – especially with the increase in the cost of living over the last few years – because they can easily leave to a place where they’re better compensated.”


The commission also voted unanimously to eliminate the requirement that architectural firms submit a “bid bond” when bidding their services for the planned courthouse dome repairs. According to Ford, a bid bond functions as an insurance policy of sorts, allowing developers to recover fees from contractors if they do not complete their agreed-upon service.

Ford said in the case of the courthouse dome, requiring architectural firms to submit a bid bond is both unnecessary and onerous, particularly for smaller firms.

“It is not business standard in that industry to require a bid bond,” Ford said. “Those types of risks are apparently covered through general liability, commercial liability errors and omissions. Requiring bid bonds would most likely deter qualified entities from bidding on the project.”

Also Tuesday, Kari Goelz, director of emergency management, and County Engineer Nick West presented a flood update. According to Goelz, favorable soil conditions for snowpack absorption have helped mitigate flooding.

“When we first went into this flood season, we were expecting a flood record – they thought it was going to be in the top 10 based on the amount of snow we had,” Goelz said. “Now that the ground has thawed, and monitors can read the soil, we’re getting an appreciation for how much snowpack actually went back in the ground.”

“The weather’s been great – warm during the day and cool at night – for snow melt,” said West.

Goelz also said the amount of rain the community receives in the coming weeks — along with the flow of the Red River, which takes approximately five to seven days to travel downstream from Fargo to Grand Forks — will determine the severity of flooding.

Todd Feland, Grand Forks city administrator, said the city is continuing to examine the feasibility of purchasing the county’s parking ramp. Feland said the city has hired Interstate Parking, which administers several parking structures in Fargo, to help operate and manage the city’s existing ramps in anticipation of increased parking volume downtown.


“What we were going to do is have another third-party evaluation, including a structural engineer, with a goal of reducing the costs of renovation,” Feland said. “If we did take over that ramp, we would look for a way to integrate it with the capital improvements on a per-unit basis and operate it with our third-party management. That would be a better option than you guys expending $6 million in capital.”

Banish covers news pertaining to K-12 and higher education, as well as county commission coverage.
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