November 8, 2007 at 7:04 a.m.
Stopping just shy of doing a headcount on a clear directive-- County Administrator John Moosey creatively broached the issue at a work session last week. He asked for county commissioners to non-verbally express their preferences on proceeding. Moosey said anybody absolutely opposed to contacting Center City officials to begin an engineering feasibility study, estimating costs to extend city sewer and water to the proposed project site, should "make a face." No commissioners were visibly opposed.
Moosey will also contact Center City and initiate annexation. He asked if anybody was opposed and got no indication.
Schematics or construction documents laying out more project costing details will take about four months. Again, Moosey asked for any type of sign from the County Board that he should not proceed on looking into these and got none.
He'll also bring a general law enforcement center project authorization to the next regular Board session, presumably for a vote.
Commissioner Bob Gustafson stated last week his disappointment in the hesitancy to take an up or down vote authorizing this. "We need to decide if we want to stay with that thing down the street (existing jail) and lose our double bunking exemption from the state, or we vote to support something."
Gustafson added, "...this is a no brainer" based on what Chisago County is spending annually for room and board elsewhere and the costs and liability transporting inmates in search of jail space.
Commissioner Ben Montzka said he has concerns the Board majority doesn't support the size of project that's needed. At the same time he wanted assurances any new law enforcement facility won't be "one dollar more" than what is necessary.
Chairman Mike Robinson began this Board work session telling the sheriff and consultant he wanted better communication. In Robinson's opinion the Board had gotten "nothing" on this issue for the last year.
Montzka recalled several memos from Sheriff Rivard and that there were meetings dedicated to project financing, as well as discussion on the land purchase detail. Robinson clarified he meant he hadn't been personally contacted by jail consultant David Prachar. Montzka observed that as County Board chairman, Robinson could easily have put Prachar on an agenda at anytime.
Robinson's comments about the Pine County jail being built for $16 million, which he made at an earlier Board meeting, were then reviewed. Robinson had said the numbers he's seen to build a law enforcement facility here "...don't come anywhere close" to Pine County's.
Prachar presented his "apples to apples" comparisons between the Pine County jail that opens end of this year or early 2008, to the early local project estimates. (See graphic.)
According to Prachar, Pine County jail construction costs were $77,738 "per bed." The estimated Chisago County cost per bed, based on a 277-bed facility, has an early estimate of $79,646. A Kanabec County jail (still in its design phase) is estimated at $67,727 but 56 beds are "shell space" in an unfinished expansion unit.
Reduced further to a jail construction cost per square foot, Prachar said Pine County's came in at $243 per square foot and the proposed Chisago County project is around $250.
Chisago County will also build space for six 911 dispatchers and Pine has built space for "two or three" Prachar reported.
There is a garage proposed for the Chisago County facility. There are eventual plans to close the outdoor gravel pit practice firing range owned by the county, and so a firing range is also planned at Chisago County's center.
Chisago County population projections also have to be considered in costing out a law enforcement facility. Local population estimates are now at and in the future will be about two-thirds more than Pine's.
Prachar also mentioned that there's been talk at the Minnesota legislature to amend a law that puts state offenders into county jails on "short term sentences." State inmates with six months or fewer on their sentence can be transferred to county jails and the state pays $6 per day. Prachar said with shortages in state prison space in the forecast, the legislature very realistically could expand "short term" offender to a year or 18 months, putting additional pressure on non-state facilities.
The county commissioners were also given another copy of a January 17 report they received detailing out-of-county costs for five years, if the existing jail doesn't get replaced.
Without obvious movement towards addressing space shortages, the exemption from the state Dept. of Corrections that currently allows double-bunks in certain cells will be pulled, reducing jail capacity by 14 or back to 53 beds. The inmate population the county is responsible for is approaching 100 per day.
Chisago County spends approximately $750,000 annually now, with the extra bunks, housing inmates elsewhere.
Commissioner Lynn Schultz told the sheriff she thought he'd be using this planning phase of the project for "educating" the public and public relations and that she was disappointed she hadn't been seeing that happen. Sheriff Rivard responded that he can speak in general about jails and running them, but he can't go out and talk about a project until the County Board gives him the bed number, staffing considerations, inclusion of sheriff's office space or not-- the necessary details.
Crow Wing, Dakota, Freeborn, Hennepin, Hubbard counties recently built new jails and/or law enforcement centers. Pine County's opens shortly. Kanabec and Wright are either building or preparing to build.