County administrator: Repairs needed at government center

Published 5:50 pm Friday, March 8, 2019

There are reportedly a number of repairs needed at the Freeborn County Government Center, including a failing roof in the Freeborn County Board of Commissioners Boardroom and ice dams causing potentially dangerous conditions on the east side of the building. 

Freeborn County Administrator Thomas Jensen said “very large ice dams and ice barriers” have developed on the east side of the building, striking two vehicles. Parking spots in front of the building are closed because of the ice dams.

Jensen said he plans to speak to commissioners Tuesday about possibly installing heated gutters and downspouts so ice dams do not continue forming.

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“It’s a very large hazard for everybody coming into the courthouse,” he said.

Jensen noted the boardroom ceiling was installed in the 1950s and its integrity is failing.

The cost to replace the ceiling is expected to be more than $50,000, and the county will put out requests for proposals and bids. It also expects to replace a viewing screen, recording equipment and projector.

“It’s upgrading those systems, because if those systems go down, we don’t have an alternate,” Jensen said.

He noted the building was roofed 78 years ago, and the average asphalt roof lasts approximately 30 years. He said insulation levels are low, resulting in ice dams coming under the roof and water flowing into the building, causing roofing tile damage.

Jensen said the original building was built in 1888 and “obviously, it’s going to need some repairs.” He said during the 2004 expansion project, cosmetic adjustments were made to the older building while the new portion was built.

The county approved a three-year contract last year with Harris Mechanical for HVAC work. The company is now there three days a week to ensure it is operating properly. Jensen said contractual work is costing $92,000 this year, compared to the more than $130,000 cost to the county in 2017 in on-call services and parts.

District 5 Commissioner Mike Lee expressed support for needed repairs if they are needed to keep Freeborn County residents safe.

“If it’s failing and things are happening, we need to fix it,” he said. “We need to take care of it.”

Jensen said he no longer wants the county to put off needed repairs.

“We are tired of putting bandaids and shortcuts and temporary fixes on this,” he said. “And what I have told the board, is, ‘We have kicked the can down the road far enough that the can is now ground down to nothing, and there is no more kicking it.’

“Nobody likes to spend tax dollars on infrastructure and building repair and maintenance, but if we don’t, we’re not going to have a building left.”

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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