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Murray County Board expands HVAC project

SLAYTON — When it comes to government center heating and air conditioning, the Murray County Board decided to pay more in 2020 to avoid most likely paying an even higher cost later.

The board unanimously voted Tuesday to work with its consultant, Dunham & Associates Inc. of Minneapolis, to pursue HVAC upgrades for the courts building as well as what was previously planned at the county office center.

The added work will boost the total project cost to a current estimate of $1,135,840. The total is more than a 50 percent increase over a planned cost of $702,600, but the increase might be less if some specific parts of the proposal can be taken out or modified.

Commissioner Dave Thiner said preliminary assessments of courts building needs showed that minor modifications to its HVAC system would not have a long-term benefit.

“It comes back to whether we want to replace everything that needs it or only do a halfway job,” Thiner said. “The cost is a worst case scenario. There are at least two or three items that can be looked at for hopefully bringing down the total.”

Prior to the vote, County Auditor Heidi Winter updated commissioners on the amount of cash on hand for the improvements.

A total of $587,500 has already been set aside in the 2020 budget. An additional $387,500 is available in reserved capital project funding. Even under the current estimate, the amount that still needs to be financed would total no more than $160,000.

In voting to approve the greater scope of work, the board agreed to at least compensate consultants for planning steps needed to create added project specifications. A final approval of projected costs will take place after further studies.

“It makes more sense to do all of it so that everything’s new at once,” said Commissioner James Jens. “There should be much more of a benefit in the end because of longevity.”

In other action, the board voted to approve an extended contract with animal control contractor Steve Erickson of Slayton. The county will continue to pay its current annual rate for up to 280 yearly impoundment days. After that, additional days can be billed back to the cities of Slayton or Fulda if the animals are impounded from within city limits.

“We’ve started to run over the 280 days,” Erickson said. “We try to hold down the total, but we also have to follow the law. It’s the same amount the county’s paid up until now, so it means the county’s cost won’t be higher. It might turn out to be less.”

Commissioners voiced support for the service Erickson provides, after which both parties agreed to continue the contract for a two-year period to come up again for renewal in 2021.

The board also finalized plans to construct a new sheep barn next spring at the fairgrounds. County Parks and Fairgrounds Manager Justin Hoffmann presented three bids. The lowest, submitted by Ankrum Construction of Slayton, came to $139,893.

The two other bid totals, of $172,400 and $178,254, both exceeded the amount of $150,000 that was budgeted for the project. The current sheep barn is being replaced after serving as a fairgrounds building for many years.

Hoffmann said the bid result puts the project on track for completion by July 1, 2020, ahead of the time when the new barn will be needed for seasonal fairgrounds events.

“The first event that will probably use it is the draft horse show in July,” Hoffmann said. “It should easily be completed by then.”

Commissioners also heard a mostly good report on the removal of sediment from a low lying area on the east side of Slayton known as Lake Elsie.

Some of the removal took place this fall, which should help to prevent water from ponding over a large area partly occupied by trees. Further removal is planned when the contractor can return with larger equipment.

“They couldn’t get the sediment out of some of the low spots, so we’ll need them to come back,” said Travis Radke of the Murray County conservation office. “They found that the trees aren’t causing a problem with the removal process. It’s working like we hoped.”

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