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Published June 08, 2012, 06:19 PM

Voters to Decide on $3.1M Renovation to Historic Griggs County Courthouse

COOPERSTOWN, ND (WDAZ-TV) - Next Tuesday Griggs County voters will decide whether to spend $3.1 million to renovate their courthouse.

By: David Schwab, WDAZ

COOPERSTOWN, ND (WDAZ-TV) - Next Tuesday Griggs County voters will decide whether to spend $3.1 million to renovate their courthouse.

The 130-year-old structure has mold and other environmental issues.

There was not enough votes to get a similar referendum passed last year. But some Griggs County officials say attitudes may have changed.

The steeple of the Griggs County courthouse has been part of the Cooperstown skyline for nearly 130 years.

"Some people think it's a church," Griggs County Treasurer Connie Eslinger said.

"This was done before North Dakota was even a state. This was done when it was Dakota Territory," Griggs County Sheriff Robert Hook said.

A bond was passed to build the court house in 1883. The jail located in the basement looks much like it did more than a century ago.

"This was the maximum security jail cell for Griggs County. It was built when the courthouse was built," Hook said.

The jail was closed in the 1970s because it wasn't up to code. For the rest of the courthouse, renovations and additions were made over the years to keep it functional. The structure of the building was recently inspected.

"For the roof for instance hadn't even settled an inch in 125 years. The way it was built, it was built right and that is what has kept it in it's place," Hook said.

But now, because of health concerns, county officials say the historic building really needs its biggest makeover.

For example, mold in the basement has forced the Sheriff's Department to move into modules just outside the courthouse.

"It needs an overall restoration or something else is going to have to happpen. There is no other option," Hook said.

The $3.1 million restoration would include new windows, fixing the basement and remodeling the office space.

"The commisson looked at a lot of different options. Tearing this down, starting from scatch. It would definitately cost a lot more," Eslinger said.

If the renovation happens, there will be a commitment to keep much of the historical pieces of the courthouse in place. That includes antique features like the sculpted tin ceiling and walls and wooden fixtures.

"The building is the oldest working courthouse within the state of North Dakota, purposely built for a courthouse," Hook said.

A federal grant will pay for a $1.3 million annex for the next to the court house, which will house the Sheriff's Office.