Carlton County officials consider alternative jail site
On Monday, April 26, council unanimously approved allowing Carlton County Coordinator Dennis Genereau to work with Adolphson & Peterson, the construction manager on the project, and others to respond to some questions on whether it is more practical to build near the courthouse or at an alternative site a few miles away.
The county must determine whether it is more practical to build a jail or justice center near the current law enforcement center – next to the Carlton County Courthouse – or at another site near the Carlton County Transportation Building on County Road 61, according to Genereau. The process will force the county to pay for soil tests at both sites, and to get the answers quickly, Genereau needed the board of directors to give it some flexibility.
“We’re going to have to spend some money on this,” Genereau told the board. “If you want timely answers, we can’t wait from board meeting to board meeting on all of these topics to move forward.”
The expenses would be made by Genereau in conjunction with Chairman of the Board Tom Proulx, Vice-Chairman Gary Peterson and County Auditor Kathy Korteum. Genereau said any cost that appears unusual would be referred back to the full board for approval. They hoped to have answers to the council’s questions about the sites by the next meeting regarding the project on May 17.
During the county business meeting on April 19, Paul Coughlin, prison administrator and project manager, explained how a location near the transportation building has become more viable over the past two years.
Coughlin said the county property was not found viable in a study by Minneapolis-based design firm BKV Group. The lack of a waterline to the site made it unsuitable for the prison project. However, since the end of the 2019 study, plans have been developed by the Township of Twin Lakes to extend a public waterline to the area, making it a more plausible option for the new facility.
The county has about 285 acres in the Transportation Building, which occupies just 18 acres of the property – much larger than the downtown Carlton Courthouse campus.
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If the county builds near the site by Minnesota Highway 210 and Interstate 35, Coughlin said it might be more practical to expand the scope of the project to become a center of justice. In this scenario, the courts, the county attorney, and the public defender’s office would move to the new building.
The move would also address another growing concern about the courthouse campus: courthouse security. Couglin said Sixth Judicial District Chief Justice Michael Cuzzo recently raised concerns about the safety of courtrooms and the courthouse.
The Sixth Judicial District has not officially told the county that the courthouse is unsafe, but there is a risk it will if issues are not resolved with the jail plan. The Pine County courthouse was recently deemed unsafe, forcing officials to transport inmates to Isanti County hearings, Coughlin said.
Carlton County Coordinator Dennis Genereau agreed with Coughlin’s assessment.
“They didn’t write a letter. They don’t want to send us a letter of all the performances, ”Genereau said. “But they have indicated that they feel very, very strongly that the county needs to take action to address their courtrooms.”
The size of the property near the transportation building also gives the county ample room to expand the facility in the future.
Although the construction of a justice center expands the scope of the project – estimates in February put it at $ 60 million – the additional space would be mainly courtrooms and offices. Cost estimates for a justice center were not yet available, but the square footage cost of office space is “much less” than detention space, Coughlin said.
Problems with the Carlton campus
As the county continued to plan for construction of the jail, issues began to emerge with the courthouse site.
A City of Carlton sewer line running along Maple Avenue through Third Street could seriously restrict the county’s options for building a new facility on campus. By code, nothing can be built within 10 feet of either side of the sewer line. McGough Construction in Duluth estimated it would cost between $ 650,000 and $ 725,000 to move the line.
“This is a major line that serves the entire western edge of Carlton,” Coughlin said.
In addition, the old transport building was located on the site and included a pair of gas pumps. The county cleaned up part of the area after building the current facility on County Road 61, but a 2011 letter from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said the county may have to take action. additional attenuation if he wanted to dig or build in the current. courthouse parking area.
Other issues arose with the ownership of Carlton High School adjacent to the courthouse campus. The county met with members of the Carlton school board on April 14 to discuss campus availability. Genereau said he asked the district for a response in mid-July.
Coughlin said previous plans for the new prison called for the new facility to be located in the current courthouse parking lot. The county planned to demolish the older part of the high school – the section closest to the current Law Enforcement Center – for new parking and renovate the newer part to house the county administrative offices.
This plan was called into question by a pair of problems. The oldest part of the school was built in 1915 and contains asbestos and lead paint. The problems do not pose a danger to those who currently use the building, but the demolition would cost “not tens of thousands, but hundreds of thousands of dollars” to remove the hazardous substances, according to Coughlin.
Additionally, the entire school’s heating and cooling system is located in the older part of the building, meaning the county would incur more costs to connect the building to the new’s heating and cooling system. jail.
“I’m not trying to defend one site or another – I’m just trying to review the information that is known today,” Coughlin said.
The next public prison planning meeting is scheduled for May 17 at 2 p.m. at the Carlton County Transportation Building.