Tough Mortar, Fragile Bricks Add up to Tricky Situation at Historic Courthouse

Kurt Rimmele of Basalay, Cary and Alstadt Architects of Ottawa reported Monday to the Putnam County Board what was found during their tests of the courthouse bricks.

The company was called in last year to take samples of the historic courthouse, located in Hennepin, which was having problems with the faces of bricks popping off.

Rimmele told the board they will have to make some decisions about the building and repair work before any estimates are given.

He said one of the tests showed that the mortar was three times stronger than it should be in one section of the building. But the old bricks in the building are fragile, so efforts to remove the mortar could result in cracked bricks.

If the board is interested, there is a way to chemically preserve the sandstone in the building, he said.

“We just have to discuss how far we want to take this,” he said.

Board chairman Duane Calbow said the matter will be discussed, but he asked Rimmele to come back to a future meeting to answer questions.

Kim Baum of Arch Hopkins and Associates reviewed the audit with the board. The expenditures haven’t changed much from the prior audit, she said. The general fund decreased by about $260,000, she said, adding that a large part of that was for the Emergency Management Agency building. The county will regain some of that money from grants for the building.

Revenues have been flat for the county, she said.

“I don’t really have any causes for concern except I wouldn’t really expect revenues to go up, which you are aware of,” Baum said.

Baum did address snow day policies at the courthouse. She said some departments require their employees to make up hours after a snow day, while others don’t.

She suggested that all the employees be treated uniformly.

“I know it’s hard,” she said. “You can’t police every single employee or department head.”

“It’s up to the department head what they do … and granted, I think it should be fair,” Calbow said.

Baum said the county may want to revisit letting department heads decide their policies.

“Ultimately, you are an employee of the county (not solely the department),” she said.

“I agree with you 100 percent,” board member William Holmes told Baum.

Later in the meeting, treasurer Kevin Kunkel said the county will have a nice boost to their general fund when they receive money that is owed to them since the Hartney Fuel Oil case was decided.

Kunkel said the county, when everything is paid from the Hartney case, will collect roughly $208,000.

At state’s attorney James Mack’s request, the county board approved a distribution agreement for the Hartney money.

The Department of Revenue paid back the money in question to Hartney, instead of sending it toPutnamCountyand Mark, Mack said. This agreement addressesPutnamCounty’s portion of the money, he said. It will likely take several months before all of the money is recovered, he said.

The Hartney tax dispute began in 2008 when the Department of Revenue concluded Hartney’s operations in Mark were subject to taxation in Forest View and not Mark, which had a cheaper tax rate and was the location of the sales office.

Source: News Tribune