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Sheriff's office could get fix-up

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The Douglas County Sheriff's Office has a new jail up and running, construction is under way on a courts-holding facility at the courthouse, and now, Sheriff Troy Wolbersen is looking for more space for the sheriff's office.

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During Tuesday's county board meeting, Wolbersen proposed an expansion and remodel of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office within its current location.

"I think this is a less expensive option and we'll gain space in the building we're already in," Wolbersen told commissioners.

With a 5-0 vote, the board authorized Wolbersen to proceed with planning the proposed expansion, including feasibility of the remodel project. However, commissioners said they want to see cost estimates before any further action is taken.

"I wouldn't want this project to cost more than a new [building]," Commissioner Jerry Johnson said.

TEMPORARY FIX EXTENDED

The sheriff's office is located in downtown Alexandria in the former Central High School on 7th Avenue; it was built in 1930.

The sheriff's office and Alexandria Police Department moved into the old school in 1995 and at that time, it was intended to be a 10-year fix, according to the sheriff.

Sixteen years later, the police department and sheriff's office still share the main floor of the building.

However, the police department is preparing to relocate to its new facility early this summer, and that will leave approximately 3,600 square feet vacant for the sheriff's office to grow into.

DETAILS ON PROPOSED EXPANSION

Wolbersen presented the board with a rough draft blueprint of what the expansion and remodel might look like.

Some of the proposed changes to the sheriff's office space include: the main dispatch area relocating to the northeast corner of the main floor; the records area would expand, providing an office for a records supervisor; a larger squad room would move closer to the garages; new floor covering and paint throughout; office space for sergeants; and a bigger space would be created for evidence processing and storage.

"If we do it correctly, I think this could be a 10 to 20 year fix," Wolbersen said. "With the proper maintenance - it easily could last 20 years or more."

Commissioner Paul Anderson told Wolbersen, "To me, this really makes sense."

Board Chair Norm Salto indicated mechanical systems in the building - things like boilers used for heating - would have to be updated, too.

Salto added, "We'd be coming up with a considerable amount of room. We need to look at all of the entities we can serve."

The second floor of the old school had recently been used for jail space before the new jail was built.

Wolbersen said a portion of the east wing of the second floor could be used by the sheriff's office, leaving the west wing for other county departments to use.

KEEPING WORK LOCAL?

Commissioners Bev Bales and Johnson said it would make sense to use the same architects and construction managers for the sheriff's office expansion that were used for the new jail and courts holding construction.

Commissioner Dan Olson recalled a resolution that commissioners had passed indicating they would try to use local workers whenever possible.

Olson said. "I'm perfectly happy with [the current architects and construction managers'] work, but I don't care to go back on my word on this."

The board directed County Coordinator Bill Schalow to search for and review the resolution that references keeping work local when possible.

BACKGROUND

At one time, the Douglas County Board had considered a new sheriff's office facility connected with a new jail. But those plans fell through, and as a cost saving measure, commissioners decided to pursue the jail project separately. The Minnesota Department of Corrections had threatened shutting down the Douglas County Jail if structural and safety improvements weren't made. Commissioners opted to build a new facility.

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Amy Chaffins
Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper. After graduating from St. Cloud State University, Amy’s first job was at KSAX-TV working as an anchor and reporter. From 2003-2010, Amy worked as an editor and reporter for the Pope County Tribune and Starbuck Times newspapers. During her journalism career, Amy earned writing and photography awards from the Associated Press, Minnesota Newspaper Association and Society of Professional Journalists. Amy and her husband, Brandon, live in Alexandria and together write “He Sez, She Sez,” a humor column in the local women’s magazine, Chicz
(320) 763-1242
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