Lac qui Parle County proposing $18 million in facilities projects

The county is now looking at its third major project as it nears the quarter point of the 21st century.

The County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted April 20 to hold a public hearing next month on a proposal to invest an estimated $18 million to meet county facility needs.

A county facilities committee is recommending that the county construct a two-story structure to be connected to the north side of the courthouse in Madison. The new facility would hold the Law Enforcement Center, County Jail, 6W Community Corrections, Emergency Management and Family Services.

The committee is also recommending that the county replace the Highway Department’s main maintenance shop with a new and larger facility. The new shop would be built at a site to be determined in Madison, which could be the existing site.

The county has sufficient reserve funds to invest $8 million of its own funds in the project, according to Jake Sieg, county administrator. It would need to bond for an estimated $10 million, he told the commissioners.

Bond rates are very favorable, and the county could take advantage of the state’s AAA rate backing for the law enforcement share of the project, which represents the greatest portion of the overall costs, according to information presented to the commissioners by George Eilertson with Northland Securities.

The bonds would require an estimated annual levy of $178,022 and would raise the county’s tax burden by about 1 percent. The tax burden would rise from 32.49 percent to 33.43 percent, or well below the rate of neighboring counties which range from 42.5 percent in Big Stone County to 46.6 percent in Swift County.

The annual estimated tax impact on a $75,000 residential property would be $4.23. The impact on one acre of homestead agricultural land valued at $5,000 would be 23 cents.

County Administrator Sieg was joined by Sheriff Allen Anderson, Family Services Director Kirsten Gloege, Highway Engineer Sam Muntean and Jonathan Loose, of Wold Architects and Engineers, in outlining the proposal and building needs to the commissioners.

The biggest needs are in the Law Enforcement Center. Operations are crammed into what was originally a residence for the sheriff and family when built. The 57-year-old facility is lacking in space, heating and ventilation, and even plumbing for its needs today.

At the time the sheriff spoke, a leak in the plumbing was draining away 8,000 gallons a day. Its source had not yet been found, Sheriff Anderson told the commissioners.

The Highway Department faces a variety of issues with a lack of space, and the shop is not able to provide ventilation for working on running equipment without the doors open, according to the presentations.

The Family Services Center building is in good condition, but it is too small for its staff of 25. The facilities proposal calls for moving Countryside Public Health and the University of Minnesota Extension offices into the space now occupied by Family Services.

The Lac qui Parle County Family Services center locate at 930 First Avenue in Madison, Minnsota.
Lac qui Parle County photo

The Lac qui Parle County Family Services center locate at 930 First Avenue in Madison, Minnsota.
Lac qui Parle County photo

The plans for what to do with the existing Law Enforcement and County Annex buildings are not yet determined. The Annex is located adjacent to the elementary school in Madison.

As part of the action to move forward with the recommendations, the county is looking at instituting an ongoing process to address facility needs.

Lac qui Parle County Administrator Jake Sieg

Lac qui Parle County Administrator Jake Sieg
Courtesy photo

“We don’t want to be in this position again where we’re replacing multiple buildings at the same time,” said the county administrator.

The courthouse, originally built 122 years ago for $36,705, has been well-maintained and can continue to serve the county for years to come, according to an assessment by Wold Architects. However, the county will need to invest in its maintenance in the next 10 plus years, according to the recommendations of the facilities committee.

The public hearing for the possible issuance of bonds will be held at 1 p.m. May 18 in the courthouse. Bonds could be issued as early as August.

If the commissioners support the project, Wold Architects would begin developing plans and specifications with a goal of construction in 2022 and 2023.

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