Martin County plans courthouse dome repairs

FAIRMONT — Martin County commissioners have begun a process to repair the courthouse roof and dome, but it’s first things first.

Commissioners on Tuesday agreed that the initial step will be the tuck-pointing of the dome masonry. Tuck-pointing involves repairing weakened mortar joints. Commissioners agree to hire architect/engineering firm ISG of Mankato to conduct site evaluation, provide construction documents, assist with permitting and oversee bidding for the tuck-pointing project. The county will pay ISG $26,000.

It is also possible that additional tuck-pointing will be needed on other areas of the courthouse, with County Coordinator Scott Higgins saying that up to 25 percent of the building may need work.

In December, the county received a report from ISG noting that the dome has sustained wear and tear over the years, and that leaking has developed. The report covered potential repairs, such as replacing the copper dome, clock restoration, structural and electrical work and mural restoration inside the courthouse. The project carries an estimated price tag of $1.9 million.

The county is weighing options on how to pay for such a large outlay. Among other things, it is searching for potential sources of grant funding, given the historic nature of the courthouse.

In other business, commissioners:

o Declared a state of emergency in the county related to the rapid snow melt and spring rains that occurred in March. The declaration allows the county to pursue state and possibly federal disaster relief, which would reimburse public entities for expenses they have incurred because of flooding.

o Held a closed session, then emerged to terminate the employment of jail administrator Mark Geerdes. Officials say that because Geerdes remains eligible to appeal the decision they cannot comment. The state’s data practices laws regarding personnel data state that until there is a “final disposition” in these matters, the data remains private. Higgins said no final disposition has occurred.

o Approved hiring Grant Carlson for the seasonal position of county parks caretaker, effective April 15. The position will run for eight months at a rate of $14.43 per hour and is not eligible for county benefits.