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HomeCommunityMillions Needed to Repair County Buildings; Public Input Sought

Millions Needed to Repair County Buildings; Public Input Sought

Todd Ford,
Cook County Public Information Coordinator

January 27, 2023 – Cook County will host three open house sessions on Thursday, February 16, to gather public input on the prioritization of projects to address deferred maintenance of County buildings and to accommodate future space needs. The meetings will take place in the County Courthouse from 10:00 a.m. – noon, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m., and 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. The work is being done as part of a process to update the County’s Capital Improvement Plan, or CIP, for buildings.

 Over the next five years, the County anticipates spending as much as $13.4 million to upgrade building systems that are nearing or have exceeded their expected lifetimes. This would include mechanical systems like HVAC equipment, water heaters, and plumbing fixtures; interior finishes including floors, walls, and ceilings; and building envelope components like roofs, windows, doors, and exterior finishes. The CIP will also include plans for addressing a shortage of workspaces for deputies, garage bay space, and space for evidence processing and storage in the Law Enforcement Center. There will also be a plan to address a shortage of office space in the Courthouse. The cost of new projects is not included in the above cost estimate.

County Administrator James Joerke says that the main goals in updating the CIP are to increase the reliability of building systems and to reduce long-term operating costs. “The County has deferred building maintenance to the point that our maintenance staff is always working reactively and struggling to keep up with equipment failures. Too often we run equipment to the point of failure and pay a premium to replace it on short notice. By catching up on deferred maintenance and adopting regular equipment replacement schedules, we can operate and maintain our buildings in a more predictable and cost-effective way that will benefit County taxpayers.”

Given the extent of needed upgrades and repairs, the County expects to issue bonds to pay for the work. While interest rates have increased in recent months, the County enjoys a strong bond rating and would qualify for lower rates than a local government with more debt and a weaker cash position. The County has also been putting levy dollars into a capital improvement fund, which was around $592,000 at the end of 2022. The amount that the County ultimately will need to finance depends on the final scope of the CIP and will be determined once the organization updates its financial management plan this spring.

Information management is another important component of the CIP process. The County is working to put systems and software in place to better maintain and access the service history of all its buildings. This will create greater situational awareness among the staff who are responsible for building maintenance and will enhance the continuity of operations when staff turnover occurs. The County’s Management Information Systems (IT) Department is heavily involved in creating the information management infrastructure that will be used to develop and manage facilities-related data.

The County requests that those interested in attending the open house sessions RSVP to April Zimmer at 218-387-3602 or April.Zimmer@co.cook.mn.us. Questions about the CIP process can be directed to James Joerke at 218-387-3687 or James.Joerke@co.cook.mn.us.

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