Board Approves Sending out bid Package for Courts Facility

By John Holler, Correspondent

Over the last decade, Wright County has found itself facing an aging, out of date infrastructure that has forced the county to spend big money on finding space away from the antiquated county courthouse in downtown Buffalo.

First it was moving the Human Services Department out to the old Pamida Building on Hwy. 55 in Buffalo; then it was moving the Sheriff’s Department out to the new Law Enforcement Center on the edge of Buffalo. Last year it was the new highway department complex. Now, another big-ticket item is on the horizon.

At the Feb. 6 meeting of the Wright County Board of Commissioners, Anthony Enright of BKV Architects and Pete Filippi, Contegrity Group presented the board with bid documents on the construction estimates for the new courts facility, which will be located next to the Law Enforcement Center. The design has gone through three phases, each getting more specific than the previous and has included several dozen meetings along the way to narrow the focus on what the county needs and wants within the facility.

The costs have gone up in each phase, with the latest being an incomplete total of $51.35 million.

County Coordinator Lee Kelly said that the process has taken years to get to this point and the county has looked at different options to meet the needs of the burgeoning courts area in downtown Buffalo, which was constructed in 1959 and is painfully small and outdated.

“We’ve been in discussions of designs for a new court facility, which kind of the culmination of a process we went through looking at the space needs,” Kelly said. “Through the study and the feasibility of this facility downtown be repurposed, ultimately it was decided the best value for the county was to pursue a new courts facility.”

“We’ve gone through three distinct design phases in this,” Filippi said. “One is SD, Schematic Design. The others are DD, Design Development, and CD, Contract Development, which we recently completed. We spent the last couple of weeks going through these last renditions of the plans and came up with the following numbers.”

Some portions of the construction process, including furniture, fixtures and equipment (FF&E), and a separate budget for information technology that will be required inside the building, were not included in the documents presented to the board. Those inclusions would push to the estimate cost to $54.5 million

As with any building, the different numbers – whether the $51.35 million figure currently in place or the $54.5 million estimate including FF&E and I.T. costs – a complex building that needs security and a lot of specific needs will result in change orders that will likely push the costs even higher.

Commissioner Charlie Borrell, a self-described fiscal conservative, said the need for such a facility isn’t easy to accept, but added that after touring the current space for the courts, the new building was a necessity.

“It’s hard to look at that 50-some million – it’s a tough number,” Borrell said. “This building that we’re building, the reason I feel OK with it, is we’re not going to be adding to it in 10 years. It’s going to be 20-plus years and we have room to add on to it, too. It’s tough one to swallow, but, in the long run, it’s what I think we have to do.”

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