County’s judicial center plans continue to move forward

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 20, 2002

A new Freeborn County judicial center plan took another step forward Tuesday.

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

A new Freeborn County judicial center plan took another step forward Tuesday.

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The county board approved a concept design by Boarman, Kroos, Vogel Group, a Minneapolis-based engineering firm, and appointed the company as the architect to develop a final design.

The board also authorized County Administrator Ron Gabrielsen to gather information for the sale of bonds to fund the judicial center.

The BKV Group has been engaged in conducting surveys and planning the new courthouse and judicial center during the past five years.

The concept design the firm completed this month recommends the county expand its current Law Enforcement Center building to the south by vacating Pearl Street and demolishing the Western Grocer Building.

The new building would accommodate a 117-bed jail on the lower floor, the Sheriff’s Office and the city police on the first floor, and the District Court of the upper floor.

Other county departments would fill the newly empty space in the old courthouse and the north-wing building after the judicial-related offices move out.

&uot;This is the only concept that would fulfill all the needs of the county,&uot; BKV principal architect Jack Owen Boarman said.

Commissioner Dan Belshan opposed the board’s endorsement of the concept design, pointing out the lack of efforts to explore other options.

Belshan also disapproved of the appointment of the BKV Group. &uot;I think it’s irresponsible that the needs study, concept plan and final design would all be done by the same architectural firm with no bidding or second opinions,&uot; he said.

A preliminary cost estimate by the BKV Group is about $20 million. Boarman anticipates $13 million out of the total budget would be for the jail facility, which requires a higher security level.

The county plans that most of the cost would be appropriated by issuing municipal bonds. And it has some options to select a type of bond.

The most common type of bonds are called general obligation bonds, which are based on the pledge of the county to levy the necessary taxes to pay the interest and retire the principal. Because of the obligation, the interest rate is usually lower.

Historically, voter approval has been required to authorize the issuance of the general obligation bonds. However, a growing number of jurisdictions have been given authority to issue limited amounts of the bonds without a referendum.

Another alternative is revenue bonds. The security for revenue bond issues is provided by a pledge of a specific revenue stream, usually derived from the project being funded or the enterprise system of which the project is a part.

These bonds are not backed by taxing power, and as a result, they are not included in the usual debt limits. Unlike the general obligation bonds, revenue bonds typically do not require voter approval but mostly have a higher interest rate.

The county also could let the Housing Redevelopment Authority issue the revenue bonds, and make a lease contract with it.

Evensen Dodge, a financial consulting firm, simulated the bonding impacts on taxes. A $20-million issuance of 20-year general obligation bonds would result in a $51 increase in taxes for a homeowner with a $50,000 property. The calculation was made with an assumption that the interest rate would be 0.25 percent higher than the state AAA scale as of March 12.

Gabrielsen said he would continue researching the most appropriate and efficient way to generate enough funding. He also pledged to reach out to the public to explain the whole plan.