Courthouse offices may move into Lewis Drug building

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RDA purchasing building with eye toward future economic development

As plans for a $4.1 million renovation of the Swift County Courthouse proceed, courthouse staff is planning to move to a temporary location for at least six months later this year.

That move will include nearly 30 staff, their record files, computers, and other equipment that are currently spread round the three-story courthouse. Eighth Judicial District Court Judge Dave Mennis will be moving to space in the basement of the Swift County Law Enforcement Center.

If plans proceed as scheduled, bids for the renovation project will be let in June with work starting in July and lasting into January.

It is looking like the temporary location for county staff will be the former Lewis Drug building on Atlantic Avenue downtown Benson.

At the county board March 7 meeting, Rural Development Authority (RDA) Director Jennifer Frost told commissioners that an offer was made for the building and accepted after a little additional negotiating. With its $70,000 offer accepted, the RDA now has a purchase agreement for the building, Frost said.

The reason the RDA is buying the building is not just because of the county’s need for space for its operations during the renovation of the courthouse, Frost said. It has also been looking for a good property downtown Benson to use as an incubator for businesses in the community, she said.

The county needing the space gives the RDA the ability to capitalize on a good deal and gives it time to decide what is the best use for the building after the county moves out, Frost said.

The RDA plans on seeking grants to help with financing work in the Lewis Drug building, she said. It has applied for a grant through the City of Benson’s application for federal Small Cities Community Development Block Grant money. While the application has been submitted, there are no guarantees the grant will be approved.

Benson is seeking an $854,000 grant that will help it fix up 20 homes near the city’s central business district and six businesses.

Business owners willing to spend up to $37,500 fixing up their building, could be given up to $26,250. They also qualify for a seven-year loan of $3,750 at 1 percent interest. The business’s part in the project will be just 20 percent of the cost, or $7,500.

Swift County commissioners had made the decision earlier that it was more cost-effective to move staff out of the courthouse rather than have construction take place around them.

It has been estimated that for the extensive renovations (which includes replacing the heating, ventilation and cooling system for the courthouse) to have take place around the staff would add $500,000 to $750,000 to the project cost. However, the costs of moving to temporary facilities aren’t cheap, either....

 

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