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Becker County Courthouse tours and open house Saturday

One of the new courtrooms, as shown during a presentation to the Minnesota Supreme Court in August. You'll get the chance to see the inside of a courtroom without being accused of a crime by attending the open house on Saturday

It's finished! After nearly two full years of construction work, and many more of poring over space needs studies, construction designs and building specs, Becker County officials are finally ready to show off the newly expanded and remodeled County Courthouse to the public.

An open house is planned for this Saturday, May 30, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Beginning with the Presentation of the Colors on the courthouse steps by the Lake Region Veterans Color Guard, there will be a short half-hour program on the courthouse steps to kick off the event.

After the Pledge of Allegiance is read by George Peters, remarks will follow from local officials including Becker County Board Chairman Harry Salminen; Becker County District Court Judge Joseph Evans; and Detroit Lakes Mayor Matt Brenk. After the Retirement of the Colors by the Color Guard, guests will be invited inside the courthouse for refreshments and tours.

Guests can choose to take the organized tours offered at regular intervals, or choose the self-guided option, according to County Administrator Brian Berg.

"There is a map inside the program brochure," said Berg. The brochure, which will be distributed during the open house, also contains a brief history of the county courthouse; from its legal establishment on March 18, 1858, up to the construction of the present courthouse in 1942, and completion of a 35,000 square foot addition in June 2008.

The addition roughly doubled the size of the courthouse facilities, which now house not only the offices of the Becker County court system, but also many of the county's main governmental departments.

After completion of the addition, at a cost of $6.6 million, remodeling of the main courthouse structure began. This second phase of the project cost $1.6 million for building renovations and an additional $1.6 million for a new parking lot and future parking improvements.

Previously, the county had rented space across the street from the courthouse, adjacent to Washington Square Mall. The Becker County Annex housed the county's planning & zoning, motor vehicle, and veterans' services.

"We were paying about $75,000 a year to lease the annex," said Berg, plus another $25,000 a year for the county attorney's offices, which were located inside the Lincoln Professional Building.

With the completion of the addition, which now houses the county's court system, there was space in the original courthouse for not only the county attorney's offices, but also veterans' services, motor vehicle and planning & zoning departments.

The offices of the recorder, assessor and auditor/treasurer also continue to be housed on the second floor of the main courthouse. The County Extension and EDA offices are now located on the second floor of the Human Services Building.

According to Berg, the entire project was paid for through a combination of $6.35 million in bonds, issued in 2006; and approximately $4.5 million in county reserves.