Dunn County considers expanding courthouse

Dunn County is considering expanding its courthouse in Manning and moving county social services out of Killdeer

May 2nd, 2017

Dunn County is considering expanding its courthouse in Manning and moving county social services out of Killdeer, a plan that has some residents upset.

The project is estimated to cost $14.6 million, which includes the building site and utilities costs, as well as "soft costs" that include professional fees, furniture, equipment and specialty testing. It would take an estimated three years to complete the project.

At a public input meeting conducted Friday night by the Dunn County Commission, some residents supported the expansion, while others were upset with the prospect of moving social services out of Killdeer.

Some at the meeting wondered if the current building could be renovated to keep social services in Killdeer, while others questioned why there wasn't a building built in town that could have housed social services and other public entities.

Commissioners noted that the current building that houses social services in Killdeer is not in the best shape. Commissioner Daryl Dukart said the current building has electrical, sewage and mold issues, along with wasps flying around during the summer. The commission has been told it could be costly to fully renovate and repair the building.

Commissioner Donna Scott said another factor to consider is that people need to travel from Killdeer and Manning several times just to be able to get things done through social services and the courts.

"A lot of the reason why we have come up with a plan and done what we done is because we want our services, the services that are provided by Dunn County to be in one place where it's good for everyone," Scott said. "Our plan is not to take anything away from Killdeer in the aspect of the shopping, grocery, retail."

Melissa Pavlicek, director of Dunn County social services, said the building is simply too small for the size of the staff. There are also concerns about security in the building.

"I was looking at the safety of not just the employees, but the people that come into the agency," she said. "... Right now it's a lot better than it was, but still if somebody wants to get into social services ... someone can go down through the basement, that's not secure during the day, they can come up through the back winter well and be in the social services office space. There's no way stop it. I can't protect anyone."

Pavlicek said they want to continue to serve the people of Killdeer and Dunn County no matter what.

"In no way will any services leave Killdeer," she said. "In fact, right now I have eligibility doing outreach to all of Dunn County. ... They're going out here and they're reaching out to everybody."

Plans

The project would include two additions to the current building, one to the south and one to the north, along with some remodeling of the existing space. JLG Architects of Dickinson will design the building, while JE Dunn Construction will focus on construction.

The north addition would be a single-story addition of just over 5,000 square feet. It would include the sheriff's department, a sally port to move defendants around easier and more discrete, and a hearing room.

The south addition would be two-stories and total nearly 26,800 square feet. It would include a new commission room, public conference rooms, a jobs development authority, and the tax, auditor, human resources, planning and zoning, social services and public health departments.

Remodeling the existing space would be about 11,650 square feet and would update the clerk of courts, recorder, state's attorney office, North Dakota State University Extension and part of the sheriff's department.

Paying for the project

The project will be paid for through the Capital Projects Fund, which comes from the federal mineral royalties produced in Dunn County. There is $5 million budgeted for the project from the fund in 2017. County auditor Tracey Dolezal said that amount could change from year to year, but they plan to pay for the project over the next three years through that fund.

There is now a nearly $9.5 million balance in the fund. Dolezal said that number could rise to an estimated $14 million by the end of the year because the payments are given out quarterly.

"While these are certainty county funds and county dollars and do belong to Dunn County, they are not property tax dollars," Dolezal said.

According to the North Dakota Century Code, counties may use any money received under this section only for the planning, construction and maintenance of public facilities, and the provision of public services.

Previously, the Capital Project Fund contributed $6 million over the last five years to:

• Fire and ambulance services
• Day care
• High Plains Cultural Center
• Valley Med flight coverage
• Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Center
• Dunn County Airport

Some in the crowd were concerned that the money for the courthouse could be used for causes like those listed above. Commission said the county budget currently includes $1.2 million in similar contributions, which is on par for the last five years.

What's next?

Dukart said the commission will now take into account everyone's input and build from there.

"I think we had a lot of good opinions shared with us," he said. "Not all negative, not all positive. Just a good mix of comments and a good array of information that we the commissioners can take back and reexamine, relook and make some decisions moving forward."

He said one of the key elements is trying to figure out what will happen to the social services building in Killdeer.

Another aspect Dukart said they must consider is if they should move forward with the full design of the project or determine if there are areas they could scale back, which is another aspect some at the meeting were concerned with.

"We have a number of alternatives bid into this project right now that we as commissioners have not started to look at," he said. "The building committee has worked with them and some of the alternatives will gradually get sifted through and probably will not happen in this building."

He also said due to the amount of interest in the project on Friday, the commission will likely want to keep the public up to date as the project continues and plans are made.

Source: Dickinson Press

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