BEMIDJI — It took just 2.5 months for local planners and builders to transform the empty space on the third floor of the Beltrami County Courthouse into a brand new courtroom, complete with state-of-the art technology and additional security features.
Beltrami County Administrator Kay Mack showed off the new $515,000 room to Beltrami County commissioners and guests Tuesday. Mack and Facilities Manager Steve Shadrick flaunted the room’s new features and answered questions about the process during a short end-of-the day tour.
“The woodwork in itself is very detailed and so with that, being able to handle that detailed work in a shorter period of time, was really the struggle on this project,” Shadrick said. “And the contractors that we had, the engineers that we had, the security that we had, it just really, this project just really flowed nice. This was a great project for us.”
The county started to think about building the new courtroom as the state legislature considered giving the Ninth Judicial District funding for a new judgeship.
“The judges wanted to know if the county had the capacity to add another courtroom,” Mack said. “We knew we had the shell, we had the open space, and so we were able to, because we set money aside in what’s called a capital improvement fund.”
After Gov. Mark Dayton approved funding for two new judgeships — one in Beltrami County — and former Beltrami County Attorney Annie Claesson-Huseby was hired as the district’s new judge, planning and construction began.
According to a fact sheet available at the open house, the project ran from December to March. Though security was a concern, Shadrick said, the build-out was relatively smooth.
“The difficult part about this project was really the timeline and the security piece,” he said. “The sheriff’s office obviously had to handle the security. We had to get contractors in and out, and we had to do it quick. So the process that they set up really allowed us to keep contractors flowing in and out really efficiently.”
According to a fact sheet available during the tour, construction cost $333,000, technology cost $130,000, order changes and furniture cost $26,629 and design work cost $25,400. The county also must spend $200,000 per year for additional staffing within the county attorney’s office, $100,000 per year for additional security staff and $70,000 for another public defender.
Judge Shari Schluchter recently began using the courtroom.
“It’s a lot just to build a courtroom,” said Beltrami County Commissioner Richard Anderson. “There’s additional costs beyond just the construction but now we’re set, hopefully, for the near future anyway, and with a quality courtroom.”