3/30/2018 3:15:00 PM New public safety center to open doors soon
The Chisago County Public Safety Center; at $24 million and enough square feet to carry on a nearly two-hour tour, ranks as the biggest project this generation of taxpayers will undertake.
The project first began to be discussed 14 years ago. And, the day is just around the corner when sheriff administrative operations shift to the site and shortly after, inmates/corrections staff will begin to occupy the jail.
Not one cubic foot of the new public safety center has evaded the in-depth thought process that Chisago County started giving this center years ago under the administration of Sheriff Todd Rivard.
The first design reports are stamped 2004 and the project was known as a “justice center” then.
The jail part was being planned for about 40 more beds than what is now heading into finishing touches. The political climate in the county was not supportive of the design that came together over a decade ago. The justice center files went on the shelf.
But, people who were around originally have seen to it that the best ideas rose to the surface, where they’ve been skimmed off and put to use.
Sheriff Rick Duncan, finishing his second term (and running for re-election this fall) said he has visited six facilities as part of the planning process. Assistant Jail Administrator Chris Toma estimates he’s seen 10 or 12 facilities since 2004.
Toma and Sheriff Duncan did a walk-through last week...the sheriff personnel offices, evidence storage, lab, jail cells, booking, kitchen, laundry, operations nerve center, delivery truck ports, and secure recreation space were all near-completion.
They pointed out aspects of the Public Safety Center that are cutting edge, while also explaining programming practices that are just good old common sense. The county hasn’t been able to offer or take advantage of many advances in corrections because the soon-to-be “old jail” and administrative spaces were so woefully inadequate.
Toma is looking forward to when the regular 50 or 60 volunteers can make use of new quarters meant for education, spiritual guidance, recovery and intellectual activities. The new public safety building also has features local police departments will appreciate. Intake is laid out to make swift work of getting an offender into custody. It’s also laid-out to divert offenders. If they are evaluated in the “pre-booking area,” Toma explained, and are deemed in need of services outside the criminal system, they won’t even have to step foot inside jail.
Toma and Sheriff Duncan look forward to having space to assess offenders for mental health or non-criminal motivations. Currently there’s nowhere for patrol officers or deputies to secure somebody who is acting out or is a threat to public safety, except jail. Or the long drive to a 72-hour hold facility will take an officer off patrol too long. A good percentage of those booked haven’t done anything violent, but they can’t be left alone.
The new Public Safety Center will provide options.
Future offenders’ children and families have been considered in designing visiting space.
There are several communicating devices (see photo) ready and room to add more. Toma noted the new set-up means kids don’t have to be brought into a jail space to connect with an adult in their lives. The visiting room looks like a clinic waiting room or other benign location.
You can converse from the visiting room at the Public Safety Center or you can arrange a visit from a private remote location. Authorities will monitor the conversations just as they do now.
There is a fee to do a remote visit, anything “extra” provided-- like small digital tablets for texting, are all available, for a fee. The fees support inmate-related expenses. There’s no charge if you come to the Public Safety Center and use the visting room equipment.
Reliance has the WI-FI and related contracts and TurnKey will be the video vist provider.
Lawyers can use this capability or confidential conference spaces for person-to-person consulting. Toma said public defenders have toured the center and liked what they saw. They can be working out of another Tenth District Court P.D. office and easily meet with a client in Center City.
Work Release is important to jail operations and “corrections” in general. Offenders often work labor intense jobs and require special gear. They will now have an area where they can store footwear, etc, get cleaned-up when they return to jail and use a designated entry and exit point that’s secure.
Sentence to Serve participants also have the possibility of working in the laundry, dishwashing area or cleaning designated areas.
The center can be staffed at existing employee levels. Duncan said the County Board was adamant that operations costs not sky-rocket.
Duncan noted that the county received a $3 million appropriation from the state legislature to assist with project costs but conditions were the project had to meet assorted standards for energy savings. The interruptible power contract negotiated with Xcel was made possible with installation of a generator. Showering stalls all have low flow spray heads. Controls and monitors were added. LED lights are used inside and out in the parking lot.