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Beltrami County puts off new Natural Resource Management building

Now is not the economy to issue bonds for new Beltrami County facilities, commissioners decided last week.

In the works was a plan to co-locate the County Highway Department and County Natural Resource Management Department on County Road 11, where the County Highway Department is now located.

Commissioners hired Bemidji architect Michael Johnston to perform pre-design work on several options for the two county departments. The Highway Department needs energy upgrades and the NRM offices need to move from the Lakeside Service Center, where its lease ends Dec. 31, 2011.

One option called for doing the energy upgrades at the Highway Department garage and offices and adding new space for NRM. That proposal was estimated at $1.38 million.

"I cannot recommend at this time in this economy that we issue bonds for that type of project," County Administrator Tony Murphy said.

Other options in Johnston's report included just the Highway Department energy upgrades at $531,578, moving NRM to the first floor of the Courthouse Annex at $395,106, and constructing a cold storage building at the County Highway Department for $546,084.

Murphy recommended Tuesday, and commissioner agreed, to go ahead with the County Highway Department maintenance, energy and code upgrades but then to move NRM to the County Administration Building at little cost.

There is now 2,000 square feet available on the second floor of the County Administration Building, some of it rented to offices for local Board of Water and Soil Resources staff and to the Bemidji Area Service Collaborativew, who both would need to relocate elsewhere, Murphy said.

"BWSR sees very little public traffic so they could go to virtually any type of office space," Murphy said.

BASC could move to the Community Services Center, where space has been vacated by the Bemidji School District, he said.

The new space left in the County Administration Building would need little renovation to accommodate NRM offices, he added.

Work at the Highway Department would include such things as replacing all the windows, making the building handicap accessible, weatherproofing the exterior and replacing heating an d ventilating systems with new high-efficiency systems.

Commissioners voted to solicit request for qualifications for architectural design of the County Highway Department upgrades and retrofit of the County Administration Building for NRM offices.