Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Dan Reed
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

County Jail's days are numbered


January 30, 2020

After the yearly inspection by the State Corrections Inspector on January 9, 2020 of the Carlton County Jail facility and daily operations, the final report included plans to recommend to the Commissioner of Corrections that a Sunset Authorization be made for the facility. This report was made available to the Adjourned Board meeting on January 27, 2020.

What does this mean? Without plans to fund and build a new jail and provide required programming for incarcerated at that facility, some time in the near future the Department of Corrections will move to close the Carlton County Jail.

The Carlton County Commissioners and all County staff involved with public safety have worked on a jail proposal for at least four years. A jail study has been completed and a proposal for a new jail complex to be built in the north parking lot of the current courthouse is the preferred plan. The price tag is still up in the air.

The State Legislature had given local Counties and municipalities the ability to levy a ½% sales tax for projects such as a new jail. The taxpayers of Carlton County would be asked to approve the ½% sales tax or increase the levy on the property taxes. This had been the plan until the last Legislative session created a process whereby a sales tax could not be levied or voted by the local people until the Legislature gave approval first.

The earliest the Legislature can give its blessing is during this legislative session. Approval would empower the County Board to put the ½% sales tax funding for the new jail on the November ballot. Then it would be up to the voters.

Senior Detention Facility Inspector Sarah Johnson noted in her findings that “it is the intent of the Department of Corrections to continue to work with the Officials of Carlton County to address the public safety needs of this community.”

What are the chances of Legislative approval for a sales tax? Sheriff Kelly Lake commented, “This decision to start the process of considering to close the Carlton County Jail could help to get approval for a ½% sales tax referendum from the State Legislature.”

The County Board unanimously approved a major push for State Bonding of a new Female Offender Program engineering planning and design in conjunction with the new Jail being considered. Along with this move the County Board unanimously approved asking the Legislature for permission to ask the local voters to approve a ½% sales tax to build a new jail.

At the end of the flurry of board actions, Commissioner Dick Brenner pointed out, “The jail construction now is set for a 2022 construction season if all these steps and approvals are successful.”

Newly revealed during this debate and decisions was the plan to use the old jail for a kitchen and laundry facility. Commissioner Mark Thell said that the Carlton Waterline along Hwy 210 to the Carlton Junction is in the Governor’s final request for State Bonding.


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