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Open house, ribbon cutting to celebrate new buildings

BEMIDJI -- Beltrami County caps a decadelong, $30 million building program with an open house and ribbon cutting Thursday. Celebrated will be the final projects of the county campus in northern downtown Bemidji: Beltrami County Courthouse renovat...

BEMIDJI -- Beltrami County caps a decadelong, $30 million building program with an open house and ribbon cutting Thursday.

Celebrated will be the final projects of the county campus in northern downtown Bemidji: Beltrami County Courthouse renovation and new County Judicial Center construction.

Construction on the campus started with the Community Service Center in 1997, which now houses the county's newly aligned Health and Human Services Department. It also houses a number of community nonprofit agencies, as well as a state Minnesota Workforce Center.

A new law enforcement center was added at $4.6 million and holds both the Beltrami County Sheriff's Department and Bemidji Police Department, as well as the county's dispatch center and records.

The County Administration Building was completed in 2005 and houses most county government offices, as well as the County License Center. The $4.04 million building also contains the County Board's meeting chambers and conference room, and such offices as environmental services, county auditor and county recorder.

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A $1.4 million renovation of the traditional courthouse was done as general government offices moved to the County Administration Building. The historic courthouse now houses corrections offices, such as both state and county probation services. The courthouse annex will become part of a county jail expansion project.

Judicial Center

The final new construction project in the complex, the year-old County Judicial Center, cost $8.54 million and is a four-story, 61,000-square-foot facility that houses courtrooms and judge's chambers for three resident judges, and room for expansion. Also in the building is the Beltrami County Attorney's Office.

The new center has the latest in security devices, and jail prisoners are escorted underground from the adjacent jail to the County Judicial Center for appearances and hearings.

The county has also authorized a second county jail renovation/expansion project. A construction firm is scoping out the estimated $2 million project that will upgrade the 20-year-old jail with a new electrical and mechanical system, jail controls and kitchen, plus add new visitor and intake areas.

Some projects have been outside the complex, such as three new County Highway Department shops at about $1.5 million.

Future planned projects will also be outside the downtown complex, including a cold storage facility and new Natural Resource Management Department offices, both slated to co-locate with the County Highway Department in northwest Bemidji at County Road 11.

Commissioners waited until now to formally dedicate the county complex as work was finished on landscaping the signature courthouse lawn area, which includes an open pergola for public presentations. Nearly $300,000 was budgeted for the project, which came in $100,000 under budget.

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Dedication

The public may tour any of the county's recently completed downtown buildings Thursday, and a county facilities map and brochure will be available.

Capping the day is a 5 p.m. ceremony at the new Courthouse Lawn Pergola, at Sixth Street and Beltrami Avenue, where a symbolic ribbon cutting will be held.

Keynote speaker is Minnesota Supreme Court Associate Justice Lorie Gildea, appointed to the high court by Gov. Tim Pawlenty in January 2006. Before that, she was a Hennepin County judge, Hennepin County prosecutor and general counsel at the University of Minnesota.

The public is invited to tour the campus buildings from 3 to 6:30 p.m., with root beer floats available on the lawn next to the Community Service Center. Entertainment will also be provided.

The Bemidji Pioneer and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

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