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Courthouse work rolls on thanks to weather, Minnesota Nice

Work continues on what will be the main entrance for the new law enforcement center. New roofing material is being installed on the old courthouse shell and some brick work has been started on the new section of the building. Wet weather last fall slowed progress on the new construction, putting crews about three weeks to a month behind schedule. However, renovation work on the existing builiding is about that much time ahead of schedule.

By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

Work continues on the Stevens County Courthouse building and renovation project, and from a monetary standpoint, the situation has been as good as the weather.

"Overall, we're doing well," said Dave Schmidt, county Facilities Operations Director.

The new portion of the $11 million project, which will be home to law enforcement, is about three weeks to a month behind schedule because of late fall rains. But the remodeling of the old courthouse structure is ahead of schedule by three weeks to a month, Schmidt said.

Aside from snow melt and frost, there's been very little moisture to hamper progress.

"This little bit of dry weather we've had has been a godsend," Schmidt said.

The two floors of the existing building have been framed up and wallboard will be going up soon. The lower floor will be home to county Human Services -- which will be moved from its current location on Highway 28 -- Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Extension and Veterans Services. The rest of the county offices and county board room will be on the second floor in reconfigured spaces.

Work on the LEC and court areas has been running behind since the fall, but the building shell is completed and masonry work is in progress in some areas.

The current District Court offices have been walled off from construction. It hasn't always been that calm as the staff has continued its work while crews first demolished the interior -- which included a chimney breaking through a courtroom wall -- then began reconstruction, Schmidt said.

"They've been really good," Schmidt said. "They've been patient but it hasn't been a joyride for them."

A drainage system in the lower level of the new building had to be installed recently, but even with that unforeseen expense only about $25,000 of the construction contingency fund has been tapped. The county has about $350,000 set aside for contingencies.

The same holds true for asbestos abatement. With about 90 percent of the abatement completed, the county has spent about $155,000 of the $320,000 budgeted, Schmidt said.

"We're doing really well on the contingency at this point," Schmidt said. "And by this time, all the surprises have been found."

Life on the job has been uneventful, too, he said.

For example, when masons had a forklift break down, steel subcontractors allowed them to use one of theirs, Schmidt said.

"As far as the subs working together," Schmidt said, "I don't know if it's Minnesota Nice, but they've really helped each other out. I've been on a lot of these projects and that's not usually the way it works."