With CARES Act funds not available for the courtroom expansion project, the commissioners were largely favorable in beginning to form a capital improvement plan with the project included.

The plan is for projects over the next five years. The plan allows a possible bond process but does not require all the projects be funded by a bond, as commissioner Bill Stearns said. A $2.1 million bond over 20 years would be a total of $2,538,260.

BHH Partners and the county building services committee will develop a wish list and plan for capital improvement projects beyond the courtroom expansion. The plan development is not to exceed $10,000 as approved by the commissioners except commissioner Jon Kangas.

Without the CARES Act deadline of Dec. 1, Kangas again suggested waiting on discussions and moving forward with the expansion project until the new commissioners begin in January. He also wants to see a full list of county projects discussed and prioritized at the board level, not recommendations from the committee. Commissioner Jim Hofer also noted the need for a capital improvement plan that is followed.

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Hofer emphasized that the lengthy process to approve the expansion project will include the new commissioners, and the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the need for the courtroom expansion are not disappearing.

“We have to find a bigger space for our courts, that’s not going to go away,” Hofer said.

The courtroom was remodeled in 2016. The expansion above the jail was discussed then and “abandoned” as it was “too costly,” according to Hofer.

The costs and timeline of the courtroom expansion are continued questions with an estimated cost of approximately $2.5 million. Both Stearns and Hofer have some ideas on where the funds could come from, including the yearly building levy, rental income funds, South Country Health Alliance funds and a bond. Commissioners Sheldon Monson and Chuck Horsager noted the favorably low interest rates for the bond option.

County coordinator Ryan Odden said the design and building would take at least a year. The commissioners approved a one-year lease for a courtroom space at the Deer Creek school on Nov. 10. The lease also needs approval at the Wadena-Deer Creek school board meeting on Nov. 23.

“I think we do need to get moving,” Stearns said.

The “big project” of the bond process would also include community members and county department leaders’ input, as Odden said.

The next board meeting is on Nov. 30 at 4 p.m.