The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

April 22, 2014

Courthouse upgrades coming soon

MANKATO — The Blue Earth County Board is proud enough of their home base to officially name it the "Blue Earth County Historic Courthouse" and the board was willing to pay a little extra for authenticity when replacing aluminum windows installed during a less enlightened remodeling project decades ago.

But commissioners were skeptical Tuesday about paying a premium for historic-looking parking lot lights around the structure, which was completed in 1889 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The county is planning to improve the courthouse's south parking lot this spring, and part of the project is the installation of street lights to better illuminate that parking lot and the one on the north-side that was repaved last summer. Putting in standard 25-foot-high street lights would require just a pair on each lot, according to physical plant director Tim Edwards.

Commissioner Drew Campbell had wondered what the cost would be of putting in shorter lamps that had a design reminiscent of the late 1880s. Following Campbell's last-minute inquiry, Edwards asked the project's consultant to estimate the additional cost and the answer was $35,400.

"That ain't going to happen," Commissioner Vance Stuehrenberg said less than a second after the number came out of Edwards' mouth.

The board authorized the standard lighting, the parking lot repaving, some drainage improvements, a new flag pole and a small sidewalk, awarding the project to WW Blacktopping of Mankato, which had a low bid of $97,432. The bid was well below the $150,000 estimate for the project and cheaper than last year's north-side parking lot improvement, which didn't include added lighting but cost $110,000.

Campbell, skeptical about the cost estimate for historic lights, asked the board to consider a change order to the bid if a more reasonable price could be found. Along with being more aesthetically pleasing, Campbell said the less lofty historic lighting might actually provide better illumination than the higher street lights when nearby trees are leafed out.

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