May 22, 2013

Courthouse to undergo expansion

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

Though still in the very preliminary stages, the McKenzie County Courthouse is preparing for a major overhaul. Not only will the building receive a 14,000-square foot addition, but according to County Auditor Linda Svihovec, all facets of the current facility will be changed in some way.
“When we came up with the plans for the building, we really tried to look at the future needs of the McKenzie County taxpayer,” states Svihovec. “We tried to think about what they might be looking for in a courthouse building and what their needs might be.”
That being the case, Svihovec states that the courthouse plans will add new offices, increase office space for departments that have expanded, and move department offices to be in closer proximity to similar offices, for their convenience, as well as the customer’s.
For these reasons, the McKenzie County Courthouse expansion will include plans to create a Public Works Department, which will include the GIS, Rural Water, Planning and Zoning, Engineer and Road and Bridge offices.
Additionally, the courthouse addition and remodel will build office space for a full-time State’s Attorney and Judge, near the courtroom in the upstairs portion of the building. The completed upper level of the courthouse will house the offices for McKenzie County Social Services, the McKenzie County Court, the State’s Attorney and Judge, and the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Department.
“We’ve got so many new people and they are working in six by six cubicles. It just isn’t working out,” states Ron Anderson, McKenzie County county commissioner. “Plus, we have added the department of Planning and Zoning, and just about every office is adding people.”
The office space for the Sheriff’s Department will also be increased, because according to Svihovec, the number of deputies has tripled, yet their office space has not.
“One department in particular that is busy is the Motor Vehicle Department,” states Svihovec. “Their line is typically out of the office and often extends far down the hallway.”
The courthouse remodel will also create a new community room and meeting room and meeting space, according to Svihovec, is something the courthouse building is often short on.
In addition to space, the courthouse upgrade plans to address issues of security as well.
“We are the only courthouse building in North Dakota that gives the public access to walk up to our employees’ desks,” states Svihovec. “The Motor Vehicle Department can have disgruntled customers at times, and there is nothing protecting those workers from an angry customer.”
Courthouse employees also find themselves driving to work and leaving work in the dark during the fall and winter months, which is also why lighting and security cameras are a priority for the new building.
“We are working with the same architectural firm and engineer that the Watford City Elementary School has been using for their building remodel,” states Svihovec. “It’s not going to get cheaper and the problems we are having with the current building are not going to go away, so this remodel needs to take place.”
According to Anderson, the remodel and addition could cost between $5 and $8 million. Depending on how the bid prices come in, Svihovec states that they hope to begin remodeling by Aug. 1.