Groundbreaking took place Thursday at 9 a.m. on the site of the future Ward County office building, which right now is the dirt lot across Third Avenue Southeast due north of the Ward County Courthouse.
With the low morning sun casting shadows from the northeast, several people involved in the development of the project spoke at a lectern in front of a Mattson Construction Co. truck to commemorate the event before the shovels came out.
Speakers included Ward County Commission Chairman Jack Nybakken, Ward County Citizen's Committee spokesman Dan Deaver, and Don Davison who is the chief architect for the project from JLG Architects.
Members of the Ward County Commission, past and present, county employees, contract workers, and members of the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce Ambassador’s Committee break ground Thursday for the new Ward County office building.
"When people walk in the new building with smiles, that will be my reward," Davison said. He added that his intent with the design of the building is to "pay a little respect" to the courthouse, which is a registered historic building.
The new office building will match the look of the courthouse in some ways but will also have a sleek, windowed, modern opening and an atrium through the middle that connects the two, nearly separate north and south parts to the building.
"I will be done June 1, 2015," Glenn Moen, chief estimator for Minot-based Mattson Construction Co. and leader for the general construction work on the site, said in an interview later in the day.
Third Street Southeast has been legally vacated for years in plans for the eventual construction of the building. It will finally be closed by next week, Moen said, when the company starts putting up their temporary fencing in preparation for starting work later in the week.
The company plans to have half the foundations put in by the time winter comes and then will continue work through the winter with steel and pre-cast erection.
In the meantime, a building permit for the site has been submitted to the City of Minot for their review and approval.
In a gag to commemorate the event, county building inspector Mike Larson handed Davison a legal notice to stop work on the site pending approval of that permit. It's a fun piece of memorabilia, Davison agreed when asked.
The building will have been on the table for nearly a decade by the time its estimated completion date rolls around, with commissioner Jack Nybakken citing November 2005 as his earliest memory of the project, though he was not a commissioner at the time.
Carroll Erickson and Bruce Christianson, though, were both commissioners at the beginning and attended the groundbreaking ceremony.
"It was shortly after I got on the commission that we were talking about how crowded the courthouse was," said Jerome Gruenberg, a fellow commissioner since 1999, on even earlier stirrings of a need for more room.
Davison was hired on early but was limited to just creating schematic drawings of a proposed building, which are more conceptual than building drawings, because the funding was just not there for the county to see the building through at that point.
Then suggestions surfaced from the community that the county should look at the availability and suitability of buildings already in the area that may serve instead of constructing a whole new one. Davison was sent to research those.
"They appreciated my work but they hadn't accepted any of them," he said of his reports on area buildings, including The Minot Daily News building. "But they did their due diligence to answer any questions with the community about existing buildings that might work."
Finally, a break came when voters passed the half-cent sales tax in November to pay for bonding the building, allowing for a total of $28.8 million to be distributed between the three projects, which include a new county jail and renovations to the courthouse in addition to the office building.
"It's just a process that starts with an idea and ends up with something that's buildable," Davison said.