Baraga County considers courthouse upgrades

L’ANSE – The Baraga County Courthouse has had ongoing maintenance issues in recent years, which were key factors in a debate two years ago about moving courthouse functions to the former Baraga County Memorial Hospital building.

Voters rejected the move twice, and the county is now looking at another possible solution to address the deteriorating 134-year-old building.

“We have a lot of work to do around here,” Baraga County Clerk Wendy Goodreau said. “You have to maintain buildings.”

On Monday, the Baraga County Board moved toward undertaking a large-scale project by approving a notice of intent to possibly enter into an energy-saving performance contract.

Richard Williams of Honeywell explained to the board what the contract would mean.

In a performance contract, part the energy savings from the project ($2.4 million in the case of the Baraga County Courthouse) would exceed the costs into the project ($1.77 million), which could mean a savings of about $635,000, according to projections from Honeywell.

Potential upgrades include lighting, windows, temperature control systems, water conservation measures, demolition of the annex building that is used for storage and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning upgrades.

“There were lots of questions, lots of information, and the board did move for a notice of intent to move forward in this project to receive comments,” Goodreau said. “It doesn’t mean they are going to move forward with it, just that it’s a notice of intent that we’re possibly going to be looking at doing it.”

Goodreau said many of the maintenance issues now are being handled on a case-by-case basis, which isn’t necessarily best for the building or the budget.

“We have a building we need to deal with, a boiler that could go on us at anytime. There are a lot of issues in (the courthouse) building alone,” she said. “What this would do is allow the board to take a proactive approach to maintaining current buildings. When you take a proactive approach, you save yourselves money and handle things in a more efficient manner.”

The notice of intent will be in effect for at least 45 days before the board could consider any motion to undertake the project.