OSAGE | The grand opening of the new $8.7 million Mitchell County Courthouse scheduled for Saturday will mark a new chapter of courthouse history.
An open house is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Its exterior design is familiar. It pays homage to its long-standing predecessor, built in 1858. The first structure sat on the same site, but faced north, until demolished in February 2014 to make way for the new.
The new building’s Grecian style, with pillars over the north, south and west doors and a cupola atop the west end, also mimics the original structure.
And that is largely where the similarity ends.
The new building, built by Henkel Construction of Mason City, is almost twice as large, measuring more than 30,000 square feet on its three levels.
It is outfitted with the latest in technology and is heated with a geothermal system. Energy efficiencies have been instituted throughout the structure, from the highly-insulated shingles on the roof to the lighting system that turns on only when people are present and turns off when they leave.
In the earlier structure there were no offices for some department heads, but now there is sufficient space. Where there was little storage, there is not only space, but efficient space, said Shannon Paulus, head of the Mitchell County Board of Supervisors.
“We had people on top of each other” in the old facility, she said.
The structure was also designed with 21st century security in mind, so that the courts are among the safest, she added.
Auditor Lowell Tesch said that he and staff are enjoying the new space and are glad to be settling in.
“We’ve heard a lot of positive comments,” he said.
Some visitors are still finding their way around the new space, but that is to be expected, he said.
“We find it’s quieter, and there is more room,” Tesch said. He said voting will return to the courthouse and will be done for the first time in city elections on Nov. 3.
Supervisor Joel Voaklander said he has heard good comments from employees, from the cleaner air quality and fewer issues with allergies, to the more peaceful atmosphere.
He added the courthouse is “a more secure and safe facility."
"The board room can double as a safe room if need be during a storm. The courthouse is also connected to the Law Enforcement Center's generator so if a power outage should occur we are still up and running,” Voaklander said.
County offices are located on the lower and street levels. Courts occupy the second floor, as they did before.
Unlike the former quarters, however, the supervisors meeting room is outfitted with a computerized board for presentations. Its larger size allows for training sessions for other departments. When public hearings are held citizens won't be scrambling for a seat.
And, whereas the supervisors’ office previously also served as the meeting room, there is now a separate area for their desks. Also on the lower level is GIS, IT, planning and zoning, the staff lunchroom, the county’s economic development office and storage.
On the main level are the offices of the auditor, assessor, recorder, treasurer and veteran’s affairs. A map of the county is inscribed into the terrazzo floor at the main axis of offices.
The second level houses the district and magistrate courts, clerk of court, jury room, law library and judges’ chambers.
Don Seymour of FEH Associates, the architectural firm that designed the building, noted earlier this year that the east end of the building was structured almost exclusively for a law enforcement and prisoner entrance as they exit to and from the courts. An elevator is situated on the east end for that purpose.
Even though the decision to build a new courthouse was divisive at times, Paulus said she has had visitors tell her what a beautiful facility the new structure is.
Still to come is the completion of the Mitchell County Veteran’s Memorial, located on the west end of the courthouse.
Signage for the courthouse is also expected to be in place soon.
Walk said the construction period was interesting, with a great result, thanks to FEH and Henkel Construction.
“They kept us abreast of the progress and recommended changes if they saw improvements could be made. Having all (county) offices within a block and a half of one another makes this a very efficient operation," he said.
"This is a building the Mitchell County public should be very proud of.”