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Supervisors Discuss New Digs For County Government

By Staff | Nov 13, 2008

A letter from the Emmetsburg Community School District generated some discussion at the Nov. 10 meeting of the Palo Alto County Supervisors. Supervisor Jerry Hofstad presented a scenario where the county would acquire the Middle School Building on Palmer Street in Emmetsburg as a possible replacement for the Courthouse.

“We ought to look at buying the old Middle School building and we ought to make that into the courthouse,” Hofstand said to open the discussion. “We could get rid of both of the annexes, let this place be a museum and we could have everything there that we’ve got, everything would be in one building, there’s plenty of parking…”

“But that’s not much bigger than the courthouse, is it?” asked Palo Alto County Auditor Gary Leonard.

“Oh heavens yes,” Hofstad replied. “Rooms, rooms, rooms, rooms. The community theatre could have the auditorium, the gymnasium could be used by recreation people and I just think it would be a fantastic thing. There’s plenty parking out back. There’s just so many possibilities there. If we could buy the thing for a dollar, put a new boiler in it, basically, that’s it.”

“You’d have to renovate it all,” commented Supervisor Ron Graettinger.

“I can see what you’re saying,” offered Board Chair Leo Goeders.

“Everything would be right there, all in one building,” Hofstad said. “What it costs us to heat this place, the annex and the Brink building last year were astronomical. I got the figures last year.”

“What did it cost?” Supervisor Ed Noonan asked.

“It costs more to heat the Engineer’s office building than it does to heat the courthouse,” Leonard replied.

“You gotta be kidding,” Noonan said, but Leonard was adamant.

Supervisor Keith Wirtz asked what it cost to heat the middle school, but Hofstad didn’t have figures readily available.

“I kind of see what you’re saying Jerry,” Leonard said. “When you see what Dickinson County spent on a new courthouse….”

“It would be a lot better than ever trying to do something like that,” Graettinger agreed.

“Well, it’s just an idea,” Hofstad said.

Noonan asked what kind of shape the courthouse was in, and Leonard said it was double brick construction and solid.

Hofstad pointed out that the current courthouse is squeezed for space in many of the offices. “You go to the treasurer’s office and Gary’s office, and you keep running into desks. Everyone is squeezed for storage. Look at this room, there’s stuff all over the place. Everywhere you go is the same way. It just looks to me like that for a dollar it’s at least worth some consideration. At least we can go look at it.”

“I’m not against looking at it,” Noonan said, with Wirtz agreeing.

In other business, the board learned that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has extended the deadline for reporting damage to drainage ditches and public properties from the summer’s heavy rains until Dec. 1, according to Palo Alto County Engineer Joel Fantz. “If people let us know about washouts in a drainage ditch, we can get the paperwork started so that repairs would be covered by FEMA. With the crops coming out, it’ll be easier for some of this damage to be spotted, so people seeing things like this should contact the engineer’s office.”

Fantz also reported that Pat Madsen of West Bend had been hired to replace Nick Hoch as mechanic for the Secondary Roads Department in Emmetsburg. Madsen will be paid at a salary of $21 per hour, and will begin his duties on Nov. 17, contingent on normal hiring requirements. The board gave unanimous approval to the hiring of Madsen and also approved two quit-claim deeds to landowners for an abandoned gravel pit and a former road right-of-way.