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Grand Forks County Commission inaugurates new members, hears cost estimates for courthouse dome repairs

Leaks in the courthouse roof have compromised the dome's structural integrity.

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Haley Wamstad, Grand Forks County state's attorney, administers the oath of office to County Commission members Bob Rost, Kimberly Hagen and Mark Rustad on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022.
Joe Banish/Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS – Grand Forks County’s three recently elected commissioners – Kimberly Hagen, Mark Rustad and incumbent Bob Rost – took the oath of office on Tuesday, officially beginning four-year terms.

Rustad and Hagen are beginning their first terms as commissioners, while Rost starts his second. Commissioners also nominated Rost to serve as chairman, and for Commissioner Dave Engen to serve as vice-chairman.

Following the oath, commissioners were presented with cost estimates for repairs to the courthouse dome.

Daniel Green, principal architect with Miller Dunwiddie, a Minneapolis-based design firm contracted by the county to perform the estimates, said the structural deficiencies present in the dome are manifold.

“The dome’s original copper roof is beginning to show its age,” said Green. “With the impact of temperature changes over the years, cracks are forming, and we’re getting a lot of leakage into the dome’s structure itself."

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He said the dome’s walls, made of a material called terracotta, are losing their glaze and developing cracks due to water damage.

"Once water gets inside the cracks in the walls, their structural integrity can become further compromised with freeze-thaw cycles,” he said.

Green recommended that the commission examine the dome’s steel structure and electrical components, due to the potential for deterioration from condensation and frost.

Total construction costs for repairs to the dome’s copper roof, as well as its structural components, are estimated at approximately $5 million.

Tom Ford, director of county administration, recommended that the courthouse dome repairs be forwarded to the commission’s committee on infrastructure and public safety for further assessment, before a course of action on the appropriate level of repairs is taken.

Commissioners also approved the request of Bret Burkholder, administrator of the county correctional facility, to extend stipends for short-notice deployment and on-call weekend pay, an incentive that was put into place last December due to shortages of officers at the facility. Officers who report for a shift during their scheduled weekends off are paid a stipend of $90 per shift, and those who report on short notice, typically to respond to an emergency, are paid $50.

“COVID made recruitment and retention of officers extremely difficult,” said Burkholder. “We are typically 15 officers short at any given time. We are constantly hiring, but retention is a struggle. We’ve hired officers who have quit before their first 30 days."

Also Tuesday, commissioners approved a request from Nick West, county engineer, to use funds paid by Grand Sky Business and Aviation Park to the county — for its lease of county land — to reimburse a contracted snow removal service $6,144.44 for a new transmission in a pickup truck used for the aforementioned purpose.

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