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Yellow Medicine commissioners discuss offices, courts, jail

October 10, 2012
By Steve Browne , Marshall Independent

GRANITE FALLS - The Yellow Medicine County Board had a discussion Tuesday as to how to proceed with plans to move county offices into a new building and what to do with the current courthouse after hearing from Judge Dwayne Knutsen of the 8th Judicial District.

Knutsen addressed the regularly scheduled board meeting on Tuesday, accompanied by Seventh and Eighth Judicial District Administrator Tim Ostby and Court Administrator Cheryl Eckhardt. The three attended the meeting to discuss court security and facility needs.

At the last meeting on Sept. 11, the board approved a purchase agreement with Fagen Carolina Buildings, LLC to buy the old Fagen Engineering Building at 180 8th Avenue in Granite Falls for $450,000. The plan at present is to relocate the board meeting room, Finance Administration Department and Property and Public Relations Services to the new building and remodel the county courthouse for offices for the county attorney and Restorative Justice program.

Knutsen pointed out that the waiting room for the present courtroom in the county courthouse was small and confined, causing security concerns for witnesses, victims and the accused, who have to use the same waiting area.

"Imagine if you were a person who'd been beaten or robbed," Knutsen said.

Yellow Medicine County Sheriff Bill Flaten agreed.

"When we bring a prisoner up in his orange jumpsuit, there is no separate place to keep them apart from witnesses and victims."

Flaten also pointed out the jury room was small and had limited bathroom facilities.

Commissioner Greg Renneke also agreed the situation created awkward and uncomfortable moments.

"I got sued last fall," Renneke said. "I had to sit in the waiting room with the person suing me. I wasn't in the best mood."

Commissioner Ron Antony agreed this was a problem that had been building for a long time.

"I've sat up there giving insurance depositions sitting next to people I was giving the deposition about," Antony said. "It's no fun."

After the board dealt with a few other items on the agenda, it returned to the discussion of the rebuilding and remodeling plans.

Currently the county is interviewing architects and soliciting plans and bids for consideration in December.

Commissioners Louis Sherlin and Gary Johnson raised the question of whether it was appropriate to make binding agreements of this importance when all the seating commissioners are up for re-election and County Attorney Keith Helgeson is being considered for the district court judgeship in Chippewa County.

After discussion, the board agreed to County Administrator Ryan Krosch's suggestion to put off further discussion for another two weeks and request an architect do a space analysis to determine the feasibility of remodeling the existing courthouse with an eye toward increased security and convenience for the court.

In other business, the board voted unanimously to approve Finance Manager Michelle May's request for permanent employee status.

The board also approved County Ditch Inspector Chris Balfany's proposed ditch assessments for 2013.

Ditch assessments for the county's 35 judicial ditches and 39 county ditches, totaling 365 miles of open ditch alone, come to approximately $559,000 in assessments spread among property owners whose lands drain into the county ditch system. With a positive balance forwarded from 2012, available funds will total about $987,000.

The board voted to advertise for bids for a haying lease at the county landfill and for a replacement for Assistant Building Maintenance Engineer Ken Jelen, who is retiring in November after 33 years on the job.



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