The Rice County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 today to construct a new Jail/LEC on a green site location.

After months of discussions and some lengthy debate there was not a lot of time taken to make the decision at the meeting in Faribault.

The options and their fiscal impact outlined in the County Commissioners packets were:

  • Joint powers agreement for the buy-in and shared operations at the existing Steele County Jail.   Cost TBD (To Be Determined)
  • Boarding of inmates in another county for periods longer than 90 days and renovating the current Jail and LEC to fully meet the needs of a 90 day facility.  $985,000 to board and transport to another county annually plus $44,343,407.
  • Expansion and renovation of the Jail and LEC at the downtown location. Cost $58,680,783
  • Expansion and renovation of the Jail and LEC at the annex location.  Cost $44,076,879
  • New Jail at a gree site location and renovation of the existing LEC.  Cost $46,655,875
  • Development of a new Jail and LEC on a green site location.  Cost $49,246,241

Commissioners Galen Malecha and Jim Purfeerst cast the no votes to the new Jail and LEC on a green site.

Malecha did not speak at today's meeting, but has made it very clear he wanted to work with Steele County on a joint jail.

Commissioner Purfeerst did indicate a regional jail would be the way to go saying, "I think the future of law enforcement, of people being house in a jail is changing more to a regional jail system.  I think the regional jail system would help improve efficiency and provide more specialized services as far as mental health. The original need here was the jail.  Now it seems like we increased that to a new Law Enforcement Center.   The jail system from what I'm seeing here costs about 25 million dollars."

The newest Commissioner added he wanted to address the original need, "I would be in favor of building it at the annex, just the jail system at the annex.  It has the storage needs, it has room there to build a new jail.  A downsized jail could be remodeled with the extra space for the Law Enforcement Center and extra room for the Community Corrections program."

Commissioner Steve Underdahl was part of the committee that did the most recent study which did recommend the new build of both the Jail and LEC on a green site, "I still feel it's probably the best solution for Rice County.  It's certainly not the cheapest and I don't look at that lightly.  The cost of this or any of these solutions is the biggest single expenditure, capital expenditure that we are looking at, the County Board has looked at, probably forever so it has a lot of impact.  I believe it's important that we have a facility located within Rice County."

Commissioner Dave Miller told his colleagues in visiting with various residents of Faribault it was made clear to him construction of a new Jail and LEC at the annex site was not desired because it was a 'gateway to the community.'

Miller said, "That's worth more for, as commercial property than it is for a jail.  I think this is the best option for us at a green site.  I think a lot of people think this is the best option but they don't like the price.  I don't like the price of any of these options but we have to move forward and get going on this."

District 5 Commisisoner Jeff Docken stated, "The options are close in money.  I know 5 million dollars doesn't seem like close but I really do believe the green site with new Law Enforcement Center and Jail would give law enforcement and our corrections the tools they need to do a good job and to do it safely.  That's my opinion."

Underdahl then made the motion, to construct a new Jail and Law Enforcement Center on a green site.  It was seconded by Miller.

I spoke with County Facilities Department Director Matthew Verdick following the meeting to get a sense of the timeline following this vote.

The County has not purchased the land yet but Verdick did tell me an estimated cost was included in that approximately $49.2 million dollar option.

The next step is to hire an architect.  He anticipates the project to be let out for bid in December or January with building starting next spring.

Once the new facility is built the current jail annex would go back to the Department of Defense.

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