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Patrick Springer, Published November 02 2010

Cass County Commission requests $600,000 for furniture for courthouse addition

Cass County officials are appealing to a state courthouse improvement fund for a little help with furnishing courtrooms in the new west courthouse addition.

The Cass County Commission voted on Monday to seek $600,000 from the Court Facilities Improvement Fund to help pay for the estimated $1.2 million cost of furnishing the courtrooms, judges’ chambers and related space.

Commissioners were divided, however, on whether to pledge not to seek any additional court facilities grants over the next two years if the request is approved.

Commissioner Scott Wagner, who has served on the committee that awards the state grants, said it would be a helpful gesture if the county signaled that it would not come back for funds for two years.

“I think it’s appropriate that we show a little restraint,” Wagner said, noting that only about $650,000 is available statewide, after a quarter of the fund is set aside for small counties.

Thus, a $600,000 grant to Cass County would account for more than 90 percent of the total available for larger counties.

Commissioner Ken Pawluk said the county already has shown restraint.

“We haven’t had a grant for two years already,” he said, noting the state court system will be getting a “beautiful” set of new courtrooms and ancillary space. “I feel we should be asking for more than $600,000.”

The commission voted 3-2 to pledge to refrain from further requests if their application is funded. Commissioner Darrell Vanyo joined Wagner in urging restraint, while Commissioners Robyn Sorum and Vern Bennett agreed with Pawluk.

Work continues on the west courthouse addition, with a price tag of almost $14 million. County Administrator Bonnie Johnson said work on the project’s first phase, pouring the foundation and related construction, is going well.

“We’re sitting pretty tight on our schedule,” she said, with the goal of starting the project’s second phase in February.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522