Chippewa County returns to Klein McCarthy Architects to analyze Montevideo, Minnesota, bank building space


— The Chippewa County Board of Commissioners is going back to Klein McCarthy Architects of St. Louis Park for help in determining how the county can address building needs for Family Services.

On a 3-2 vote Tuesday, the commissioners awarded the low bid of $13,900 from the firm to conduct an analysis of the MinnWest Bank building in downtown Montevideo. The analysis will provide an estimate of what it would cost to reconfigure the facility to accommodate the county’s Family Services operations.

It will also determine if the approximate 16,000-square-foot building could also accommodate the operations of the nonprofit Prairie Five Community Action.

The county has an option to purchase the bank building, which it will need to exercise within a 12-month time frame.

Currently, Family Services and Prairie Five operate independently in the Community Services building in Montevideo. It was formerly a hospital building.


A 2018 study by Klein McCarthy indicated that it would cost an estimated $7 million to make needed upgrades to the building for its continued use by Family Services and its 47 full-time employees. A study two years ago by the firm pegged those costs at closer to $15.1 million.

The higher estimate was provided when Klein McCarthy completed a space and facilities analysis for all county operations. The firm provided a range of options to meet county facilities needs. They ranged in cost from $34.8 million to $43.3 million, and included rebuilding the Sheriff’s Office and County Jail.

The high costs led the county to explore other options, including the possible use of the bank building for Family Services. The high costs also played a role in the close vote on Tuesday. Commissioners expressed their concerns that Klein McCarthy had provided options and estimates based on metropolitan area costs.

The commissioners noted that Klein McCarthy’s previous work with the county benefited the firm in providing a low bid for the bank evaluation. Its low bid compared to quotes of $21,345 from J & D Construction of Montevideo and $65,375 from Fagen Engineering Inc., of Granite Falls. Both of the local firms would be essentially starting from scratch in their work, and offered different scopes of work they would perform.

In discussions, the commissioners noted that the analysis of the bank building could lead the county to re-examine the possibility of remodeling the Community Services building. It offers ample room for Family Services and Prairie Five. Family Services Director Lisa Schultz told the commissioners that her staff would prefer to remain in the building.

The commissioners said they would like to see Prairie Five remain in Montevideo.

The private nonprofit agency

offers programs for people in need — ranging from aging services and child care to home repairs and transportation — in the five western Minnesota counties of Big Stone, Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, Swift and Yellow Medicine.

The commissioners said that Prairie Five is looking at an offer for building space in Lac qui Parle County.

Not making a decision on building needs is costly by itself, according to Commissioner Candice Jaenisch. She pointed out that the analysis of the Community Services building made three years ago found that its maintenance and utilities costs were roughly $150,000 per year more than they would be in a new or updated facility.


“The further we kick the can, the worse it is going to be,” said Board Chair Matt Gilbertson. He pointed out that when he first was elected to the Board of Commissioners, a study had indicated it would cost $8 million for a new Family Services facility.

Jaenisch made a motion to select J & D Construction to analyze the bank building, explaining that a “fresh set of eyes” could benefit the county. It did not receive a second. Commissioner Bill Pauling said he would have to abstain due to a relationship with the company.

Commissioners Dave Lieser and Dave Nordaune offered the motion to award the project to Klein McCarthy. Nordaune pointed out that the county was unlikely to find a lower cost for this service and noted that the firm is well-qualified to provide the analysis.

Jaenisch and Pauling voted no, and Lieser and Nordaune voted yes, leaving Gilbertson to cast the deciding vote to go forward with Klein McCarthy.

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoors reporter for the West Central Tribune.
He has been a reporter with the West Central Tribune since 1993.

Cherveny can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at 320-214-4335.

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