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Changes ahead for county buildings

Douglas County commissioners approved the adoption of a capital improvement plan for 2012-2017, discussed acquisition of the public works building and talked about additions to the sheriff's office at its May 22 meeting.

The county built a new public works building four years ago with bonds issued through its Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) because the old building was demolished to make room for the new jail (correction: print edition stated public utilities, should have read jail).

Now it plans to issue capital improvement general obligation bonds on its own to obtain the building.

Carolyn Drude with Ehlers, the county's bonding consultant, said the only purpose for the re-bonding is to save the county money.

Initially, the HRA was involved in the public works project because it was more convenient at the time; the HRA had more latitude to get the project done, Drude said.

The county will refinance and prepay the Douglas County HRA's series 2008A lease revenue bonds, which financed the new building and new bonds will be issued in the amount of approximately $7,325,000.

"It's prudent that we move forward with this," said Commissioner Dan Olson.

The board concurred and passed the resolution. A petition requesting a vote on the issuance of bonds that is signed by voters can be filed with the county auditor within 30 days of the public hearing.

ARMING UP FOR ARMER

The Douglas County Sheriff's Office received six bids in response to a request for proposals for a monopole that will hold the radio equipment necessary to make the Allied Radio Matrix Emergency Response (ARMER) system functional this November.

Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen said the bids ranged from $105,564 to $128,480. Preliminary plans for the ARMER project set aside $150,000 in the budget for the pole. Commissioners accepted the lowest bid from Structural Buildings Inc., located in Becker.

Structural Buildings has erected six towers previously. The tower will be located on the northeast corner of the Services Center building, where the sheriff's office will be housed once renovations are finished.

Right now, the law enforcement tower is located on Viking Towers, which rents space to other businesses. Keeping the pole on county property will provide easier access if repairs are needed and will prevent interference from other antennas.

The monopole will be approximately eight feet in diameter, 100 feet tall and silver. The silver color is intended to make the large pole look less obtrusive against the skyline. Typically, poles are 120 feet high but since the pole atop the sheriff's office will be in the line of sight with the Garfield tower it only needed to be 100 feet, Wolbersen said.

Commissioners also heard a request for shared space from Brian Rubenstein with the Department of Corrections (DOC).

The DOC has four felony agents whose offices are in the lower level of the courthouse. Recent shootings in Sherburne and Cook counties and a brick-throwing incident in Winona brought security concerns to the surface.

Rubenstein said the offices, where they are now, pose safety risks for the agents and other workers in shared spaces.

"We're looking for a common sense, proactive approach to keeping our staff safe," Rubenstein said.

A checklist for physical safety gave the current conditions poor marks for reasons such as not having separate and secure access, no interview rooms outside of staff office areas, insufficient duress alarm systems and the public counter in the probation/parole office is not break resistant or adequately equipped for threat levels or weapons screenings.

"We've had some instances where staff isn't comfortable with the layout of their offices," Rubenstein said.

Space is available in the new sheriff's office schematic that would lessen the risk factors. The DOC predicted a need for 2,400 square feet; 2,200 is available in the west corridor on the second floor of the old jail.

Rubenstein said the DOC can be flexible and work with the county on future plans. The current DOC lease with the county at the courthouse is not up until 2014.

Wolbersen said the proposal is feasible and wouldn't encroach on future expansion space for the sheriff's office. The commissioner's building committee will be meeting with the DOC for further negotiations.

DeyCrystal Dey Crystal Dey is a staff reporter for the Echo Press. Originally from Minnesota's Iron Range, Dey worked for newspapers in North Dakota, Florida and Connecticut before returning to her home state to join the Echo Press in October 2011. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Staff Reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter at @CrystalDey_Echo.

Crystal Dey

Crystal Dey is a staff reporter for the Echo Press. Originally from Minnesota’s Iron Range, Dey worked for newspapers in North Dakota, Florida and Connecticut before returning to her home state to join the Echo Press in October 2011. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Staff Reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter @Crystal_Dey.

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