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Question of restrooms as county considers LEC project costs

By Bob Steenson,

Floyd County supervisors continued discussions on the new law enforcement center and courthouse updates projects at a workshop meeting Monday morning, and also welcomed the county’s new information technology director.

Supervisor Linda Tjaden reported that the LEC project architects, Prochaska & Associates, of Omaha, Nebraska, had submitted another conceptual design for the project, this one again including new handicapped-accessible restrooms for each floor of the courthouse.

The county, architects and the construction manager continue working on options to keep the project within the $13.5 million bond referendum approved by voters almost a year ago now, after some initial estimates showed preliminary plans costing up to $1.8 million more than what would be available after bond-letting costs and other expenses.

Much of the cost-cutting attention has focused on what was originally designed as a large glass-walled atrium that would contain two separate new elevators for the public and for jail detainees, as well as the restrooms for each floor of the courthouse.

The original concept was for a large space to extend nearly the entire height of the courthouse.

The latest design concepts have reduced the atrium size considerably, both in the footprint and in the height, extending only to the ground floor and the first floor in the latest drawing.

“More of a lobby, we’re calling it, than an atrium,” said Tjaden.

A plan discussed several weeks ago had removed the new restrooms as an option to shave costs, but Tjaden said Monday morning that may have been going too far.

Supervisor Roy Schwickerath agreed, saying, “Things like the bathrooms, if we don’t do them (now), if we take them out of the plan, they’ll never go there, they’re gone.”

Tjaden said, “You’re right, Roy, if they don’t get done now they’ll never get done. But it is still up to us as a board to make that decision, because there are dollars associated with doing it.

“The square footage of the whole atrium, lobby, whatever we want to call it now, has been greatly reduced, which is truly helping save some money there,” she said.

Regardless of the height of the lobby, there would still need to be part of the addition between the new single-story law enforcement center and the five-story courthouse that extends all the way to the courthouse top floor, for the new elevators. Restrooms, if included, would also go in that full-height stack.

There is often some confusion over the floor-naming at the courthouse. There are actually five usable floors, with the bottom floor labeled the ground floor and four numbered floors, one through four, on top of that.

Tjaden said Monday that Sheriff Jeff Crooks is looking if cuts can be made in the law enforcement center plans that could reduce costs without sacrificing the requirements needed in the new county jail and Sheriff’s Office.

Some windows in part of the new building are being reconsidered, for example, Tjaden said. The existing kitchen appliances for jail meals and office furniture for the Sheriff’s Office will also be moved into the new law enforcement center rather than buying new furnishings.

Tjaden said they are also looking at making some of the county department location changes within the courthouse that had been initially discussed, but not doing some of the office remodeling that had been part of those relocations, at least for now.

Tjaden also said the core team — Tjaden, Crooks and Auditor Gloria Carr — would be holding a phone interview with The Samuels Group and Proshaska at least weekly until construction bids are let, then biweekly after that.

The latest estimates are for big-letting and construction start this summer and project completion in the spring of 2021.

Also at the meeting Monday, the board welcomed new information technology (IT) Director Bernie Solomon. Solomon is the county’s first full-time IT director, in a position created recently.

Solomon is a 1989 graduate of Charles City High School who has worked in IT capacities for the Iowa Judicial Branch, major companies including Gateway in South Dakota and Fisher Controls in Marshalltown, and previously with Unggoy Broadband.