County looking at courthouse options with courts moving

By John Holler, Correspondent:

Wright County has barely broken ground on its new Judiciary Center, and now the county is facing another dilemma: to remodel its current courthouse to better house the remaining departments, or potentially building another facility on the same site.

At the June 12 meeting of the Wright County Board of the Commissioners, discussion took place about the options: building a new $40 million, 120,000 square foot facility smaller than the current county courthouse, versus spend about $20 million to remodel the current location to house the county’s needs for the next 10-15 years before later taking on the inevitable construction of a new facility.

Once the courts move, the remaining departments to house would be: Administration, Assessor, Auditor/Treasurer, Planning & Zoning, Information Technology, Recorder, Human Services, Veteran Services and the county board.

The big question is the cost comparison. When the board first approved a new jail, it was stated they could build both the jail and the courts facility for $45 million. The Justice Center alone in 2018 was estimated at $50 million. Other factors that prompt a quick decision is that in 10 years the Monticello nuclear plant may be dissolved– along with the $2 million a year in levy dollars the facility generates.

Wright County is currently 87th out of 87 counties in per capita spending and has the ability to carry $467 million in debt. It is currently at $52 million and will go up to $90 million with the Justice Center bonding. The board differed on how to approach the matter: Commissioner Mike Potter said the costs for construction are only going to go up, while Commissioner Charlie Borrell suggested doing nothing. Commissioner Christine Husom said seeking out pricing options wouldn’t commit the county to any decision.

“We’re moving forward to get more information essentially,” Husom said. “It’s not that we’re saying we’re going to do this or going to do that. We need to know how it’s all going to shake down and, whatever we do, the impact is going to be on our taxpayers. If we remodel, it’s going to have an impact. If we rebuild, it’s going to have an impact. We need to get just what that means for all of us.”

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