Davison County searching for office spaceNeed for drug court offices kicks off study of existing facilities.
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
Following a Tuesday tour of the Davison County Courthouse, the county commissioners assigned a committee of three officials to inventory available room and to gather a list of space requirements from department heads.
Built in 1936 at a cost of $240,000 and dedicated in September 1937, the four-story, art-deco-style courthouse has received numerous updates to systems through the years, but its floor plan is essentially unchanged, and office space has become tougher to find.
The auditor will gain some space when the commissioners move to the county’s 1420 N. Main St. building later this year, but other departments also need room.
The latest search for space was precipitated by Deputy Chief Court Services Officer Ron Freeman, who said the county’s new drug court will need an office for a probation officer and office support staff when it starts up in September.
The drug court, which is state-funded except for the office space and is part of a newly adopted statewide justice reform program, will stress intensive probation, treatment and community involvement as a last-ditch alternative to long-term incarceration.
Last week, Freeman requested the second floor courthouse space that was formerly used by Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). The commissioners deferred that decision until it first assesses county needs.
The main floor of the courthouse contains offices for the county auditor, treasurer, register of deeds, zoning administrator and the emergency manager. The basement level, which the commissioners will visit next week, holds the veterans services offices and offices of the director of equalization.
The second and third floors primarily consist of two courtrooms and the offices of Freeman, Clerk of Courts Barb McKean and her staff; and judges Pat Smith, Pat Kiner and a visiting judge.
The first stop on the commission tour was the fourth, or top, floor, which contains the most unused and unassigned space.
The top floor once held the county jail and later a law library, the latter of which is still there, although in diminished form. The fourth floor is still in use for jury deliberations and lawyer conferences. Some ceiling and wall areas have cracked and broken and have missing plaster — the result of now-repaired roof leaks.
An old holding cell, now used for storage, and the unused remains of a jailer’s apartment are still evident.
Commissioners Randy Reider, Kim Weitala and Auditor Susan Kiepke were charged with inventorying available space and determining office space needs.
Reider said one of the first steps will be to collect floor plans of the courthouse and its current uses.
“We’ll get it organized, and then determine if the space can be better used,” he said. The group will also consider potential space at other county buildings.
Sudrla gets raise
In other business, the commissioners, after lengthy discussion, gave Zoning Administrator Dan Sudrla an extra $2 an hour — retroactive to Jan. 1 — which will increase his pay to $21.93 an hour. The bump equates to a 10 percent increase.
Commissioner Denny Kiner said Sudrla’s multiple responsibilities as zoning, drainage and 911 administrator warrant the extra pay.
Sudrla, who plans to retire soon but hasn’t set a date, expressed his appreciation but also said, when asked his opinion, that the county may have a tough time filling his office at the same pay rate in the future.
Meanwhile, the commission is still pondering a comprehensive wage and salary study.
Kiepke said the county has solicited three companies about a wage study, and it is considering soliciting a fourth.
Weitala said the goal is to select a company soon to complete a wage study by late summer. The goal is to have the updated job definitions and wage scale operational by January 2014, Weitala said.
Weeds still strong, but slowing
In his final report as county weed supervisor, John Geidel said that infestations of Canada thistle and leafy spurge continue to be a problem for the county.
Canada thistle infested 9,200 acres in 2011 and 6,800 acres in 2012. Leafy spurge infected 1,600 acres in 2011 and 1,400 acres in 2012.
The county sprayed 464 miles of county roads last year and 191 miles of township roads for those and other weeds, he said.