Clamor for more space bubbles up at county

• Commissioners direct Taylor to look at what was done during previous  planning efforts 

by Jim Boyle


The clamor for an expansion of the Sherburne County Government Center in Elk River has percolated up to the Sherburne County Board of Commissioners again.

This time it was Administrator Steve Taylor asking for some direction on whether to form a building committee to resume efforts to devise a plan and start working on architectural drawings.

Commissioners said the first step would be dust off the last body of work  on the matter and decide what to do with that.

A committee developed the beginnings of a plan in 2008, but efforts were put on hold as the economy eroded.

Taylor has skimmed through it. The project assembled was based on projections made in 2008, and those did not materialize to the degree that was expected, Taylor said.

There was a lot of work done, but it stopped short of including schematics, Taylor said.

“I think we need to review and recognize the pressures for us to build and what’s the risk if we don’t,” Commissioner Felix Schmiessing said.

Commissioner Bruce Anderson said it would be foolish not to look at the work that was done previously.

Commissioners agreed that would be the most logical step, but there seemed to be varied ideas on how fast to move and whether the time has come to expand the government center or build a standalone facility.

“Four years ago we decided not to move forward and to buy time,” Commissioner Rachel Leonard said. “I’m not against looking at it. I think we should.

“But my honest opinion is we can’t keep buying time.”

Leonard said through partnerships, the county could help pay for the building with a variety of revenues.

Chief proponents to expand government facilities are reportedly the judges chambered in Elk River where there are four busy courtrooms  and robust court administration offices.

Taylor said the pinch is not just being felt upstairs in the courtrooms and court administration. He said since he took over as administrator in November 2013, two storage rooms in the government center have been converted to office spaces.

There are other potential partners if a building project were to be considered, ranging from office space for the Soil and Water Conservation District, the Elk River Area School District that has been looking for new quarters, and the federal government that has already been a partner to expand the jail over the years and has other needs.

“We’re coming off some pretty lean times for our citizens,” Schmiessing said. “We need to be very prudent as we move forward.”