No more than eight months is left to dig into the details of which new Carlton County Jail building plan is chosen and the best site for the complex. Up to this point the County’s Building Committee, the Justice Partners, the Court system, the Finance committee, and the Jail Steering Committee have focused on this project. Now a special Committee of the Whole meets the third Monday at 2 PM to study in depth anything related to this new Jail proposal.
In order to call for bids on the new Jail construction in early spring 2022, the County Board must make a decision on the size and cost of the facility by the end of the year. At the moment there are lots of questions and only some answers.
There have been three studies commissioned by the County Board to have consultants evaluate the current program of the Carlton County Jail, specify needed improvements that continue to be made, and then develop possible responses to future needs. At the same time different building proposals have been studied, many of them in operation in other counties.
“This has been a long process,” reflected Sheriff Kelly Lake. “The exploration of all possible choices started in earnest in 2012 when Paul Coughlin was hired as the Jailer at our current facility. His overall knowledge and expertise has been invaluable in this journey.”
Final approval for financing the Jail complex through the use of an additional ½ % sales tax has been included in the Minnesota House of Representatives Omnibus Tax Bill, but the bill is slow to be addressed by the Minnesota Senate. Once permission is given by the Legislature the residents of Carlton County will have to vote to approve the sales tax rather than the property tax levy used for paying the necessary Jail bonds.
Scott McCarthy of Klein and McCarthy has been chosen to create the pre-design and budget needs for the new County Jail complex and put together the final plan for the Jail. He provides architectural and engineering expertise for the project. His goal is to explore the building, program, and site costs to give the County Board the information to choose the best fit for our current and potential jail population. Final approval for the McCarthy firm will be considered at the April 26 Board Adjourned session.
Scott McCarthy specializes on work with jails and court buildings. He commented that Carlton County has “unique building needs to address a strong mental health issue in the current population of the Jail.”
At this special Committee of the Whole meeting on April 19, McCarthy fielded a number of questions concerning the type of building to construct and whether the existing north Courthouse parking lot or a “Green Space” area on the 264 acres of County owned land next
to the Transportation Building would be the best place to build.
The Courthouse site can be physically connected to the new Jail complex if it was built there. County Coordinator Dennis Genereau said that the Sixth District Court system had made it perfectly clear that two full courtrooms are needed at the Carlton site with one small courtroom for hearings. To accomplish this a Courtroom would have to be built above the new jail in the existing North parking lot with offices for support staff. With this option, costly remodeling would have to be done in the current Courthouse.
Putting a Jail complex on the current north parking lot means that the foundation of the old County garage would have to be removed, the soil excavated may be contaminated and need to be mitigated, and a large WLSSD sewage pipeline, servicing part of the City of Carlton, runs under the parking lot which would cost $650,000 to 725,000 to relocate.
Little room is left for construction equipment and materials at that site and would impact the use of the present Courthouse and Jail. McCarthy commented that the large rock outcropping on the north side of the north parking lot would have to be removed and cost of that is unknown at this time. At this time further future government expansion on the Carlton Campus would be hampered by limited space available. Parking is limited currently and parking space would be reduced with construction on the north parking lot.
The “Green Space” site for a Jail complex at the Transportation acreage had not been considered earlier because there was no water or sewage service. A sewer line is now available and Twin Lakes Township is now in the process of finalizing details for a new water line source from the City of Carlton. This site has plenty of room for whatever Jail complex is finally agreed upon and has plenty of room for parking and future expansion. Several County Jail complexes have been moved and built outside of towns.
Construction costs continue to escalate and a choice of site, size of the building and the program needs is limited by those costs. The County Board strives to make the best decisions with the least amount of money to make that happen.
Besides building the Jail complex some jail staffing will be needed and an unknown number of maintenance staff. Consultant Mike Griebel in an earlier report said that the current jail program costs $4 million annually. As yet the future program costs each year are yet to be determined.