Jul. 1—HOWARD — For the first time in the building's 86-year history, the Miner County Courthouse is getting some serious improvements.
The county's headquarters at 401 N. Main St. in Howard are going through a $1.6 million renovation this year, which has moved most of the Miner County offices about six blocks to the south on Main Street to a former bank building.
"The old girl is getting an upgrade," Auditor Susan Connor said about the building this week.
The courthouse was completed in 1935, and the discussion around the building renovations ratcheted up when Miner County was having boiler and HVAC system failures. Connor said the piping in the building was original to when the building was constructed and now needed to be replaced. That opened the door for replacing electrical issues and water issues in the building's basement affecting the foundation.
Since construction got underway in the spring, crews have excavated around the foundation and waterproofed the walls, along with installing a drain tile system that will help mitigate future water damage. Puetz Design and Build, of Mitchell, is the lead contractor on the project.
Also part of the project is renovating a community room in the basement, which will hold future commission meetings. Connor said the current meeting room was cramped, which was spotlighted last year during the COVID-19 pandemic when social distancing was difficult. The courthouse is also being repainted and getting new lighting. Concerns about asbestos also had to be remediated before work could begin.
"This is the first time we've had this kind of work done to this degree in the courthouse," Connor said.
The Miner County Commission also received a proposal that would have included an elevator addition to address Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility concerns. The cost for that was up to $3.5 million, and the five-member board voted to go without the elevator.
The commission had extensive discussion in 2020 about whether to upgrade the existing courthouse or consider a new building, including touring courthouses in Hanson and Hutchinson counties, where new county facilities have been built in recent years. Some members of the public said they appreciated the building as a source of community pride, with notable historical brick architectural features, including ornate windows and center stairwell, a terrazzo floor, and original 1930s-era light fixtures that are still working.
Aside from the sheriff and 911 dispatch, Miner County's offices have been at 217 S. Main St. since early April. The temporary location on Main Street was made available to the county through the Miner County Historical Society when Rivers Edge Bank moved to a new building one block away.
Connor said it was not going to be possible to move the sheriff and 911 dispatch departments, considering their emergency uses, so construction crews have worked around those departments.
The goal is to have all of the county's offices back in the courthouse by the end of October 2021, with Connor commending the county's contractors and service providers to keep county business open to the public.
"Our move has gone pretty smoothly and we've had a lot of players involved to get everything where we needed to be up and running," Connor said. "... And hopefully we'll be back in the courthouse later this year.