It seems as if there is always something that needs attention. That’s how it goes with Polk County’s many buildings and other properties.

    It seems as if there is always something that needs attention. That’s how it goes with Polk County’s many buildings and other properties.    

    Keeping the infrastructure up is an ongoing task. Rich Sanders and the Highway Department do a very good job with the county roads… at least, as far as the money allows. It is a different story for Mark Dietz, our new, energetic superintendent of buildings and grounds. He currently has his hands full.   

     The work on Dietz’ plate starts with the completion of the remodeling of the Law Enforcement Center (LEC) where most of the old jail cells has been converted into useable space for the Sheriff’s Department. The project included putting on a new roof and a major upgrading of the more than 35-year-old heating and cooling system. Added as the project proceeded were the development of a new Dispatch Center and the installation of the “next gen” equipment that has taken over the communications field nationally.

New generator needed   

    While most of the work in the LEC has been completed, code and performance problems with the existing back-up generator and the entire emergency electrical system became obvious during a recent power outage. As a result, some re-wiring in the building along with replacement of the generator itself has become necessary. The new back-up generator will be located at the point where power comes into the LEC. It will serve the entire complex… the Sheriff’s Office, the Dispatch Center and the adjoining Red River Valley Juvenile Center, where heat is vital for those who are housed there.   

     Another part of the overall project that will soon get some attention will be the remodeling of still another part of the former jail space into officing for the Information Technology (IT) Department. The Server Room, which has taken up space in the building for several years, will be expanded as well. Having both the server, which are the base of the county’s entire computer system, and the Dispatch Center in the LEC makes a lot of sense. The building was constructed as a jail. As such, it is secure and virtually impenetrable… a real fortress, if you will.    

    Other work left to do in the building is in the Juvenile Center portion where the former dispatch room will be used for the education program of the juvenile facility. Currently, the education program and the recreation/exercise area share the same tight quarters making neither very adequate.   

    While costly (just over $2.3 million), remodeling of the LEC sets the building up for another 50 years of use, according to architect Richard Rude. The LEC was constructed in 1975-76 and the adjoining Juvenile Center was added in 1996.    

    The remodeling is being paid for from county reserves, so there is no tax consequence involved. The work is to be concluded by mid-2014.    

    But the LEC project is only a part of what is on Dietz’ plate. He is also dealing with issues at both the Highway Department and at the Environment Services Department’s Transfer Station.

Snow build up on Highway office   

    Huge amounts of snow collect on the office portion of the Highway Department building, largely because of an off-set in roof heights between the higher shop roof to that over the single-story office area. The weight of this snow has been a problem for a number of years and has resulted in structural issues, frost damage that has makes door closures a problem, ice dams caused by a lack of a lack of ceiling insulation, and a few other things that need attention.    

    Several options are on the table to cure those problems including one to raise the roof of the office portion of the building so that the snow is likely to blow off the roof rather than collect on the lower portion.

Transfer Station weathered, too   

    Problems at the Transfer Station are also weather related and have been ongoing for some time, too. The decorative fascia panel at the roofline on the west side of the building catches and holds a lot of snow. Along with how the gutter system was mounted and a lack of insulation, this has contributed to ice dams, frost damage, and even gotten behind the decorative stone veneer. There has also been infiltration of water into the office floor area at the ground level.    

    All can be fixed, of course, but it takes time and money with Dietz at the helm of coordinating what needs to be done. The Highway Department and Transfer Station projects will also be paid for from General Fund balance and not result in a tax consequence.    

    All of what is on the table now is, of course, in addition to regular maintenance that must be done on all properties. That includes the branch office facilities in East Grand Forks and Fosston and highway stations in East Grand Forks, Euclid, Fertile and Fosston. The Fosston-based incinerator and materials recovery facility (MRF) along with Landfill near Mentor are maintained by the Environmental Services Department. Keeping everything up is a big job but it is certainly much cheaper to maintain properties than it is to replace them.    

    Thoughts expressed in this column are those of the author and are not necessarily a reflection of the opinions of the other members of the Polk County Board of Commissioners.