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Major Renovations Planned For Courthouse Complex

Issue Date: August 30, 2019

Plans to renovate the Ella Court building are moving full speed ahead, according to the report made by County Administrator John LeFebvre at the Marinette County Board meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 27. The long vacant former Marinette County Jail will become a new home for numerous county offices, and will boast the first "green roof" area in downtown Marinette as an amenity intended to benefit the entire community, according to LeFebvre.

Bids for roof replacement are due on Tuesday, Sept. 17. LeFebvre said this will be a total roof tear-off and reconstruction , complete with all new insulation topped by a membrane designed to go with the green roof.

The building which adjoins the back side of the current County Courthouse and Annex, was originally designed to support a fourth floor jail addition, so weight of the green roof will not be a problem, LeFebvre said.

At Tuesday's board meeting LeFebvre displayed an architect's concept of the green roof on the west half of the building, complete with a small glass-enclosed area in case of inclement weather and planters around the outer perimeter.

Architects will finalize floor plans for the building and the green roof by mid-September, LeFebvre said. He hopes to have a good cost estimate by the end of September so they can put it in the 2020 budget that will come up for County Board consideration in October.

Intent is to have the new roof put on this fall, and to have bid specifications and final plans for the remainder of the renovation completed in time to let bids in November and present them to County Board for approval in December. "We want to let contracts before the end of the year so construction can start in January," LeFebvre said.

He said if the roof isn't finished this fall it will not stop the project, but will slow it down by three or four months.

Cooperation will be needed from the City of Marinette to provide the two handicapped accessible entries as planned. The ramps will require encroachment into the existing sidewalk area.

That may not be a problem, however, as there also is a proposal to ask the city to vacate a of Ella Court Street to Stephenson Street, which would add parking spaces at what would become the building's main entry and improve safety by eliminating need for persons parking there to cross a street. LeFebvre said that possibility will be brought to the Infrastructure Committee at its meeting in September and he will recommend asking the city to vacate the street.

He displayed floor plans showing location of Clerk and Treasurer offices, Veterans Service, Economic Support and Energy Support offices on the first and second floors in the renovated building, with Register of Deeds and Land Information offices entirely on the second floor. There are interview rooms scattered throughout the office space areas, which will allow security for county employees. Customers will not be invited into the main work areas, LeFebvre said. There also is to be a decent size committee room, complete with lecture hall style chairs.

He said the there are about 18 Economic Support and Energy Support employees to be moved from their current rented location in the NWTC building, and their area will include three interview rooms. There will be space for five computers for public use, one of them to be ADA accessible.

The walkway from the Ella Court Building enters the old courthouse from at the current Land Information and UWEX office area.

An elevator as well as stairs will be installed to reach the enclosed area on the green roof to make the area usable every day of the year.

Supervisor Don Pazynski asked why the plans keep the parking garage in the building and LeFebvre explained they do not need the office space at this time and do need the garage area for equipment, etc.

Pazynski applauded the green roof concept, and asked if it would be for county employees only, or the general public.

LeFebvre said the plans are for a building that is a good representation of things they have been discussing to make the community more attractive, and the hope is that this will be "a community thing." The intent would be to open it to the community, but only during daylight hours, and possibly only when the courthouse is open.

To Pazynski's concerns about employee safety, LeFebvre said the public cannot get very far into the building from the rooftop. All the interior office doors have locks and they may install security cameras.

Supervisor Vilas Schroeder noted all the county offices seem slated to move into the renovated building and wondered, "Will this become a ghost courthouse?"

LeFebvre said the existing courthouse will become more of a facility for the courts, with the offices of the District Attorney and Clerk of Courts located where the clerk and treasurer offices are now. Also in the original courthouse building will be administrative offices, finance department, child support, and parks and facilities maintenance offices. Eventually there would be a new County Board Room on the first floor of the old courthouse, with the current County Board room returned to its original use as a courtroom. It occasionally is pressed into use now as a third courtroom.

"We believe that it will not look like a ghost town when you walk into this courthouse," LeFebvre declared. He added that the work will be done in stages over time and the final project will be the new County Board room.

"This is something the County Board will decide based on what they want for their customers and their employees," LeFebvre said of the overall renovation plans, and particularly in regard to the green roof concept.

Supervisor Tom Mailand asked if other places have these rooftop garden areas and if they are well used.

LeFebvre said it would be a very nice place for people. The City of DePere has done it, but more are offered by hospitals and universities and are well used. It would be a first for this area.

"This is an employee thing, and a community thing," LeFebvre said. "This isn't something we have to do, but it is something we can do to make the community better." He said the millennials are looking for something like this, and noted that the approximately 40 employees in the current offices have a small break room in the basement that holds about 12 people, plus another small break room in the annex.

"I applaud you for your vision...for taking the time to put all this together," declared Schroeder. "It's nice that we're starting to walk the talk."

Supervisor Clancy Whiting asked if LeFebvre had discussed plans with department heads, and LeFebvre said most of them are on line with it.

Supervisor Tricia Grebin said if he is targeting Millennials there should be WiFi bases and LeFebvre said there will be those, plus places to plug in cell phones.

Referring to difficulties in accessing the county tourism website that had been discussed at a recent Tourism Alliance meeting, Grebin asked LeFebvre if he had addressed that problem. LeFebvre said he would try to get to it that afternoon, and would have it done by the end of the week.

Supervisor Bonnie Popp suggested putting at least a counter and sink on the green roof area, and possibly a small kitchen. She felt people would want to rent it for events.

LeFebvre said there is no restroom planned for the roof and explained construction of the building makes it difficult to add major plumbing there, but they could put water lines through the stairwells.

Supervisor Ted Sauve asked if they have looked into possible grants to help finance the project. LeFebvre said they had found none, but are still looking, "and we'll gladly accept private donations."

On other subjects Supervisor Ginger Deschane asked if there had been any changes at Twin Bridge Park. She was referring to an issue last month when several members of the public voiced objections to closing of the boat landing area there because buoys marking the swimming area were repeatedly found missing and there had been issues between boaters and other users of the beach.

"We had the boat landing area opened by Friday," LeFebvre said. They had anchored the buoys to land so they could not be moved unless someone cut the ropes. "I think things have calmed down there a little bit," he added.

LeFebvre said if they can get the necessary permits from the state the new boat landing on the Menominee River at County T will be done by the end of September.

LeFebvre reported he had attended the Wausaukee Village Board meeting on Monday, Aug. 19, and found that they are definitely in need of additional funding if they are to proceed with plans to renovate the former Stephenson National Bank building at the main downtown intersection into a new community center, library and municipal office building. Cost, with purchase of the building, will be about $1.3 million, LeFebvre said. The village is in line to get some grants, but will need local matching funds and are likely to apply to the county for a portion of the CLOSE funds the county has available from the CDBG grant program closeout. "They definitely will need a portion of those funds," he added. Decision may come after the County Board receives the economic development study report in September.

Authorizing a contract with Christiansen Construction for construction of a new garage at Morgan Park at a cost of $38,250 was unanimously approved. To a question from Supervisor George Kloppenberg prior to the vote, Forest and Parks Administrator Pete Vilas explained the existing 2-stall garage will stay, and this will be a 24'X30' pole building, unheated, to store other equipment that currently is kept outdoors.

The board also approved some user fee changes as recommended by respective committees. They include increasing cost of non-resident cards for use of the Marinette County public libraries from $25 per year to $50 per year for families and $25 for single cards, and increasing the for-profit organization cost of renting meeting rooms at Stephenson Public Library in Marinette from $25 per use to $50 per half day and $100 per full day; and upping Conditional Use Permits through the Land Information Office to $400 per application and setting a $200 fee for a Filling and Grading Permit application.

Also approved without dissent were authorizing the Child and Family Care Manager in the Health and Human Services Department to apply for a Youth Justice Innovation Grant of up to $150,000 and use the money if it is awarded; a one-year agreement with Marinette County Elderly Services in the amount of $235,411 for 2020; a quit claim deed to the Town of Pound for a property there, and transfer of $78,690 from the Highway Fund balance to replace or repair a portion of the roof at the Peshtigo Highway Shop.

After some explanations the board approved allocating $342,928.53 from the Highway fund balance to replace diesel fuel tanks at the Highway shops in Crivitz, Peshtigo and Pembine. Federal rules require all above-ground tanks by 2021, and Highway Commissioner Eric Burmeister said they want to get it done now before the prices go up when the contractors are busy trying to beat the deadline. The county will no longer have gasoline tanks, and LeFebvre and Finance Director Laura Mans are looking into ways to use credit cards for buying gasoline at service stations and still claim any tax exemptions due to the county.


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