Ward County commissioners held another special meeting Thursday morning with a citizen's committee and others to discuss the Ward County office building, jail expansion, and courthouse renovation projects.
Commissioner Alan Walter had special concerns over plans for emergency management space in the new office building, particularly that there be enough room for an adequate emergency operation center, or EOC. In current plans the room would be also used as a 12-foot by 16-foot supply closet across the hall from the Emergency Management office.
Ward County Emergency Manager Amanda Schooling said she's "not 100 percent happy" with the current plan, saying that it "would be easier if my office were connected to the EOC," but that could work.
Walter felt that the EOC would need room for at least 15 people, for all those who may be involved and would need to meet with each other in case of an emergency, and that a 12-foot by 16-foot supply closet would not be enough.
Adding humor he used the idea of Burlington being destroyed by a tornado as an emergency that would need adequate room, but longtime Burlington mayor and fellow commissioner Jerome Gruenberg says that the city has its own EOC.
County commission chairman Jack Nybakken soon brought the discussion around, once again, to the fourth floor issue.
A basic design for the floor was originally thought by the commissioners to be included in the not-to-exceed price in their contract with JLG Architects for the project. That basic design would include an extension of services like the stairwell, elevator, electric, and water to what would be an open and undeveloped floor.
At a special meeting held April 18 to discuss the projects, architect Don Davison disagreed that a fourth floor was covered in the scope of the project, and projected an expansion to a fourth floor to be about $1.6 million for the unfinished version or about $2.5 million for a finished floor with build-outs for offices and all the other requirements.
This is the first time the commissioners have seemed to really treat a complete build-out of the fourth floor as a serious consideration.
With parking woes still plaguing the project, the commissioners seem ever more likely to be considering razing the Ward County Public Library building in Minot to make room for a new parking lot. Negotiations with the owner of Morgan Printing fell through for acquiring his property and negotiations with The Minot Daily News remain a stalemate, although a new letter to the newspaper was approved to be sent at the meeting.
If the library is razed to make way for county employee parking, then the library would have to be moved to the first floor of the upcoming office building, forcing all other offices upward and changing plans. There is no real idea of what would happen to the Bookmobile should this move ever take place.
Changes of plans, though, upset both the citizens committee and some commissioners.
A representative of the committee brought up that the office building proposed no longer resembles the one voted on for the half-cent sales tax in November, although he personally prefers the new design, a sentiment seemingly universally shared by those in the room. That was just one change which he used to illustrate the slow development of the project being a concern.
The concern was shared and all commissioners seem very conscious of price and saving money. Commissioner Shelly Weppler, though, did mention that using the lot the library sits on for parking may represent a savings if demolition and changes of architectural plans come out to less than having to acquire additional property for parking.
Jeremiah Christenson, an engineer with Commissioning Solutions of Fargo, was at the meeting to present his company's services to the projects. Commissioning a project would be, he explained, a further step in ensuring that all infrastructure put in place in the new buildings, like electronics and mechanics, would work as they are supposed to and would optimize the building space efficiency, thus saving money in the long run.
The commissioning services, he said, usually cost about 0.5 to 0.6 percent of a building's total cost, or $75,000 to $80,000 for the Ward County projects.
The commissioners requested more time to go through his proposal and will discuss it and possibly make a decision at the next county meeting on June 4.
Ward County Sheriff Kukowski wanted information on the development of the Ward County Jail expansion. His concerns are based on the problems encountered by Williams County when they expanded their jail. The costs eventually soared beyond expectation and lawsuits resulted. He wants to avoid a similar occurrence for Ward County.