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Wadena Board hears new architect's view of Courthouse remodeling

Wadena commissioners heard from BKV Group partner Bruce Schwartzman in a special board meeting March 7 about his architect firm's plan to remodel the upper level of the courthouse.

BKV Group was asked to prepare preliminary layouts suggesting several options for reconfiguring both the large and small courtrooms, both judges' chambers, storage space, jury meeting rooms, and other aspects of the court area on the upper level. Bringing the courthouse into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was an important consideration in the layouts and changes Schwartzman presented.

The architects were also asked for their views on installing an additional elevator to be used to bring prisoners from the jail to the courtrooms. Presently, prisoners are brought to court using a secure set of stairs.

All five commissioners; 14 department heads, staff, and judges; and three personnel from BKV Group attended the meeting, which lasted about two hours.

Part of the presentation put forward ideas for rearranging the spaces on the upper level of the courthouse to make them more functional, convenient, and accessible to court staff, attorneys, juries, and the public.

Another part dealt with technology upgrades designed to bring the court facilities into the 21st Century. Installation of integrated video displays, a new audio system with assistive listening devices, a programmed control system, and special functions for sensitive victims and witnesses were explained by court technology consultant Gordon Fransen.

The last part of the presentation was used to explain two proposed phases of remodeling. Schwartzman suggested that changes to the perimeter of the courthouse be made first, followed by changes to the large main courtroom in the center of the courthouse.

Schwartzman, Fransen, and their colleagues are perhaps the most experienced court architects and technical specialists in Minnesota. They have worked with dozens of counties to remodel and upgrade their facilities over the years.

Many of those who attended the meetings made suggestions for changes to the plans Schwartzman had prepared.

Seventh District Judge Sally Robertson and Chief Judge John Scherer attended the meeting and were active participants in the discussion.

At the end of the meeting, commissioners set the next date for Schwartzman and Fransen to present revisions to the plans for April 17 at 1 p.m.

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