On March 13, county engineer Brian Pogodzinski and county attorney Jamie Hammell told Houston County commissioners that a county-owned salt shed in Spring Grove should be torn down.

Pogodzinski reported that an inspection of the metal trusses that hold up the canvas roof of the 55 ft. by 120 ft. building turned up deficiencies.

Cover-All Building Systems, the company that manufactured and sold the structure to the county has gone bankrupt.

Hammell had limited time to address the board, but advised against keeping the structure, since the county's liability insurance carrier (MCIT) has stated that they will no longer cover it.

Other issues are the possibility of OSHA violations and failure to meet state building codes.

The problem is that under heavy wind and snow load the trusses can fail. Pogodzinski said those are just the conditions when employees enter the building to get salt and sand for snowplows.

"They go in with an end loader... and it has a cab, but if the building does collapse, someone could certainly get hurt. You go in when the weather is worst."

Pogodzinski said some quick fixes would improve the situation, and a certified welder from Spring Grove offered to do the job for $1,200.

When asked for his opinion, however, he replied, "We can go out and get some more quotes for fixes, but the bigger issue is the long-term structural integrity. The building does not meet state building code. Personally, I don't know how we can NOT meet state building codes."

"There's an estimated cost of $90,000 to tear down the structure and replace it... $40,000 for the structure itself, plus labor to put up a new one. That total includes about $16,000 to $17,000 to tear down the old one."

Commissioner Tom Bjerke said, "I don't think we can ask employees to go into a building that could be dangerous."

Pogodzinski was asked to get quotes for a replacement structure.

Airport consultant almost hired

Pogodzinski also asked the board to consider hiring an airport-consulting firm for the next five years. The county advertised for consultants to advise on airport matters and got back only two responses, he reported.

One was Mead & Hunt, which has done the job for a number of years, while the other was TKDA Engineering of St. Paul.

Airport consulting firms guide local governments through the maze of FAA and MnDOT Aeronautics regulations related to running an airport and making successful appeals for grant dollars, Pogodzinski said.

The Houston County Airport Commission recommended staying with Mead & Hunt, Pogodzinski reported.

After a motion to accept by Commissioner Steve Schuldt, the board nearly approved a new contract, then re-considered after Thor Kolle of the Friends of the Houston County Airport reminded them that they might want to keep their options open, rather than locking in all work for the next five years with one firm.

In particular, Kolle took exception to the set of restrooms that Mead & Hunt designed for the facility in 2006, calling the cost exorbitant.

"Competition is good; I don't care what you're buying," Chairman Jack Miller stated.

"Can we bid out work on a per-project basis? Or do we need a five-year deal?" Commissioner Justin Zmyewski asked Pogodzinski.

"Why do we need to have a contract?" Bjerke asked. "We could get two proposals."

Pogodzinski was asked to review the situation and come back with more information.

Generator contract approved

Commissioners approved a three-year service contract for the generator located in the Justice Center, which provides emergency power for both that building and the Historic Courthouse.

"We did make efforts to have this done locally," Personnel Director Tess Kruger said of the pact, which is from Zeigler Power Systems of Shakopee.

Zeigler is the company that sold the Caterpillar unit to the county.

Unfortunately for local service providers, the generator requires specialized care to keep it under warranty, Kruger reported. That includes twice-a-year testing of fluids and the "transfer switch" which kicks in when grid power fails.

"They've kind of got us over a barrel," Zmyewski said.

Kruger said she was able to negotiate the contract offer down from $6,220 per year to $3,430.

Ziegler technicians will make two visits a year for that fee, which includes the cost of fluids and filters.

"Our staff does all the weekly and monthly maintenance," she said.