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Grand Forks County Commission moves forward with courthouse renovations

The commission approved two measures, including moving forward with a construction assessment to restore and repair the courthouse dome and to replace air handlers in the courthouse's cooling system.

The Grand Forks County Office Building. Photo by Nick Nelson for the Grand Forks Herald.
The Grand Forks County Office Building. Photo by Nick Nelson for the Grand Forks Herald.
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GRAND FORKS — The Grand Forks County Commission on Tuesday approved two moves toward renovations at the Grand Forks County Courthouse.

The commission approved moving forward with a construction assessment to restore and repair the courthouse dome and to replace air handlers in the courthouse's cooling system.

The commission first approved the assessment for the courthouse dome. The issue at hand, as Director of Administration Tom Ford said in the meeting, is the courthouse is a historical building, so it's important to hire a contractor with experience restoring similar buildings. Miller Dunwiddie proposed a fee of $48,010 to move forward with an assessment for what is needed to repair the dome. Ford emphasized in the meeting the fee would only cover the assessment and not any construction costs.

Ford said county staff recommended the commission accept the proposal. Ford said once it was approved, Miller Dunwiddie would be able to begin the process next month. He also said he reached out to the Grand Forks Historical Preservation Society and the North Dakota Historical Preservation Society for ideas pertaining to grants and other funding.

“The Historical Preservation Grant was not funded in the last legislative session, so there's no money available there,” Ford said to the commission. “Those I spoke with out in Bismarck are optimistic that (the) fund would fund it in the next legislative session, so that is something we could look at. It would probably be a small amount, but any amount helps.”

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The second approval for the replacement of the courthouse’s air handlers came due to the difficult winter and excessive rain Grand Forks received in the spring, which caused damages to the air conditioning units, which have been leaking into the courthouse. CMTA provided the estimate for the scope of what could be done to alleviate the issues and proposed two options: one to replace the three air handlers with modern air handlers, which would cost $609,800, and the second to replace the entire unit with a chiller, which would cost $1,085,000. The commission voted to move forward with replacing the air handlers with new ones.

Commissioner Tom Falck said the commission could use capital improvements funds for the project and use federal American Rescue Plan Act funds for at least part of the dome’s restoration. He said the commission should keep in mind it should be trying to save some of the capital improvement money to assist in a renovation project at the correctional center.

“One or the other is going to have to come out of ARPA, because we can’t do both out of capital improvements,” Falck said.

Jacob Holley joined the Grand Forks Herald as its business reporter in June 2021.

Holley's beat at the Grand Forks Herald is broad and includes a variety of topics, including small business, national trends and more.

Readers can reach Holley at jholley@gfherald.com.Follow him on Twitter @JakeHolleyMedia.
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