Commissioners, Freeborn County includes Albert Lea

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 5, 1999

Sure, a big sport utility vehicle with added leg room, reclining plush seats and a compact refrigerator sounds nice.

Monday, April 5, 1999

Sure, a big sport utility vehicle with added leg room, reclining plush seats and a compact refrigerator sounds nice.

Email newsletter signup

But is it a necessity?

Obviously, no.

Standard passenger cars and trucks serve one overall need – transportation tools. Expanding from the basic Ford Taurus to a Cadillac isn’t a need. It’s a want.

That sounds simple, doesn’t it?

But it’s a message some in this county either don’t understand, or aren’t considering when courthouse needs are discussed. They’re concentrating on wants, the Cadillac, and ignoring overall needs, the Taurus.

To meet the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, the courthouse requires an estimated $640,000 in updates. Security, safety and limited space are other current courthouse issues.

With these &uot;needs&uot; in mind, a facility committee explored options for updating the building. The committee’s conclusion was demolish the north 1955 segment of the courthouse and build a new building behind the original building.

The cost of the plan is $8.5 million to $9.35 million and is now one option considered by Freeborn County commissioners.


It’s never fun to spoil plans, but a vastly improved courthouse with plush seats, added leg room and a compact refrigerator isn’t a pressing need for this community.

The facility doesn’t require almost $10 million in updates.

What is needed, however, is equal access; the ADA requirements are needs – all residents should have access to the building – besides ADA is law.

Addressing limited space at the law enforcement center is also a need.

But larger offices with added leg room are wants, not needs. Yes, the county zoning administrator is confined to a small office, but it’s suitable for his position.

We don’t need a new courthouse. All we need is the minimum plan, adjusting office space and keeping construction to a minimum. At $3 million, this plan is also high, but it does seem to only address the needs.

Besides, if the county is determined to spend another $7 million, there are other needs in this community.

Albert Lea residents provide 50 percent of the county’s tax revenues, but county government doesn’t always support city needs.

A friend recently suggested that the city provide more money to address its current housing shortage. But why should city government be the only government contributor? Again, half of the county’s tax revenue is provided by Albert Lea taxpayers.

Residents constantly complain about the availability of higher paying jobs here, but when the city attempts to offer solutions, it’s met with county criticism.

Currently, city leaders are exploring a freeway interchange at Bath Road because they say it will attract industry, business, people and reduce traffic congestion. But the county won’t support the interchange. Commisioners say it’s unwanted.

Perhaps that’s true, but where is the county plan? How much city tax-payer money does the county plan to contribute to Albert Lea problems? Talking about the labor shortage is nice, but what does the county suggest to remedy the problem?

Yes, county boundaries do extend beyond Albert Lea, but let’s address needs before wants.

There are real needs here. For now, let’s stick with the Ford Taurus.