County to take on mixture of hot and cool issues

by Paul Rignell
Contributing writer

As a new year starts for the Sherburne County Board, next week the commissioners will consider a plan to beat next summer’s heat in the Government Center while also weathering the heat that comes from state and national politicians debating redistricting.

The board could decide at its Jan. 10 meeting whether to authorize designs for a plan that would improve cooling throughout all Government Center buildings in Elk River.

Larry Svitak, professional engineer with Engineering Design Initiative of Minneapolis, shared ideas and preliminary cost estimates with the board at a monthly workshop Jan. 4. EDI will propose connecting two cooling plants on opposite ends of the county property with one campus loop, at a cost of $350,000, and installing a new chiller at the South cooling plant, for a cost of $325,000, less initial rebates for taking measures for energy efficiency. EDI estimates annual energy savings of $30,000 through the life of a new chiller, which will add cooling capacity.

“This is placing infrastructure for the future,” Svitak told the Star News. “If (the county) adds a building, it can be connected to this infrastructure we’ll be putting in place today.”

Svitak said the project could go out for bids in the early spring. Costs would be covered out of the county’s Land and Building fund. With a reduced levy for 2012, “we levied less (for land and building) but still enough to cover this size of a project,” said County Administrator Brian Bensen.

Each of the county commissioners is elected from one of five districts in the county, and the boundaries are bound to be redrawn before filing for county office opens in May. Three board seats will be up for election this year, now held by Larry Farber and Rachel Leonard, whose districts combine to cover the eastern edge of the county, and John Riebel, whose district covers most of central Sherburne County.

All Minnesota counties must wait to reconsider their district lines – a process that follows the national census every 10 years – until after lines are redrawn for the U.S. House and state legislative districts.

“Our main growth has been in the east and southeast, in the Elk River and Zimmerman areas, some up toward Princeton,” Bensen told the Star News. “The district lines, in general, will tend to slide to the south and east, making the Elk River district smaller (District 1, now represented by Farber) and the western districts bigger.”

Larry Farber elected chair of the board
Sherburne County Commissioner Larry Farber, of Elk River, was appointed Jan. 3 to chair the county board’s proceedings for 2012.

He has entered his final year of a four-year term on the board, representing the county’s District 1 since 2009. He is a retired police officer, having served in that career for more than 28 years, and he served 12 years on the Elk River City Council before seeking election to the county board.