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Commissioners agree on fee contracts for facilities experts

By Kim Ukura

Sun Tribune

The Stevens County Board of Commissioners agreed to pay their architecture and construction management firms on an hourly basis while the firms work to help define the elements and scope of the county facilities needs.

Representatives from architecture firm Klein McCarthy will meet with Stevens County Sheriff Randy Willis and other county department heads to refine and trim the space estimates they have been working with. The firm then will present the board with more refined numbers for the renovation and proposed jail and law enforcement center in two weeks.

The process for refining size numbers for each department involves trying to understand how individuals will use their offices and public spaces.

"One question we have is what are things used for," Scott Fetting, President of Klein McCarthy Architects, told the board. "For example, do people need big offices to meet with clients in, or can they have smaller offices and have more shared meeting spaces."

After the work session, Fetting, architect Mark Schneider and Contegrity Group representatives Larry Filippi and Earl Feuchtmann toured the courthouse to get a better sense of what the renovation would entail.

Board chair Neal Hofland said he felt the board was in agreement that the courthouse must be remodeled, but were still split on how far they wanted to go with other projects like the jail or renovations to the Public Health and Human Services buildings.

Commissioners Paul Watzke and Don Munsterman advocated a more ambitious renovation project that includes building a jail and attached law enforcement center, renovating the old courthouse both inside and out, and moving both Public Health and Human Services into new spaces that better fit their needs.

"I'm thinking in terms of efficiencies," Watzke said, "and I think it makes sense to bring things together. The question is how do we squeeze the size and cost of the project to more palatable numbers."

Commissioner Larry Sayre agreed the jail needs to be addressed.

"Any county needs a jail facility," he said. "We must define the jail project and iron out costs, and the courthouse needs to look like a courthouse and not a rundown school."

Commissioners Hofland and Herb Koos said they did not see the need to build a jail or try to move county services closer together.

"I'm not saying I'm right," Hofland said, "but I'm a bottom-line kind of guy trying to save money."

"Are we not serving the people of Stevens County now?" he asked.

Kloos agreed, although he cited the long-term costs of staffing and running a jail as the reason he was not in favor of building the facility in Stevens County.

The board will vote to approve their contractual agreements with Klein McCarthy and Contegrity at their regular board meeting next Tuesday, April 1. The next facilities work session, where the board will consider more refined numbers about the size and cost of the jail and law enforcement center, will be Tuesday, April 8 at 9 a.m.