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Published October 17, 2012, 09:46 AM

Group trying to save McLean County courthouse turns to judge

WASHBURN, N.D. (AP) — A group has asked a judge to stop the planned demolition of the old McLean County Courthouse, arguing that it is historically significant and could be converted into office space instead of turned into a parking lot.

WASHBURN, N.D. (AP) — A group has asked a judge to stop the planned demolition of the old McLean County Courthouse, arguing that it is historically significant and could be converted into office space instead of turned into a parking lot.

The McLean County Heritage Preservation Foundation says the century-old building has value because it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and could be rented out for offices. The group has asked a judge to grant an injunction stopping demolition of the structure, which was built in 1908 and expanded in 1963.

"The historic courthouse means a lot to pioneer families," foundation spokesman Dennis Kost told KXMB-TV.

County commissioners are forging ahead with their plan, emboldened by a public vote two years ago in which approval was given for construction of a new courthouse, which is under way. County commissioners have refused to halt plans to demolish the old building, which they say is bat-infested and has health concerns. The preservation group wants more time to seek grants so it can hire experts to dispute that, the Minot Daily News reported.

"The judge will either throw (the complaint) out or let us have a chance to explain why it should be saved," Kost said.

The county commission on Tuesday awarded a bid to remove asbestos from the building, The Bismarck Tribune reported. Full demolition is to occur in the spring.

"We are going ahead with demolition," State's Attorney Ladd Erickson said. "There's no validity to the complaint."

The original courthouse building was abandoned three years ago when a second employee was diagnosed with a respiratory ailment linked to spores from bat guano. The Tribune reports that the new, three-story courthouse is nearly done and some offices already are occupied.

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