County leans toward southwest jail siteA once-divided Douglas County Board has reached a consensus: a piece of property for the jail project.
By: By Erin Klegstad, Staff Reporter, Alexandria Echo Press
A once-divided Douglas County Board has reached a consensus: a piece of property for the jail project.
Following a public meeting and a closed session Tuesday, it agreed to gather further information, cost figures and possible purchase of a 91-acre site located on Highway 27 West and Interstate 94.
“Time is of the essence,” said Commissioner Paul Anderson. “I think we have to move and move fast.”
The site, however, is not one of the three initially chosen by the board in December for evaluation.
Following that meeting, two commissioners realized they had mixed up the 91-acre site with an adjacent 123-acre site; both properties are owned by Ben Zacher of Alexandria. County Coordinator Bill Schalow then got consensus from two other commissioners to have the 91-acre site considered as well.
One of the other three properties – 28 acres on County Road 45 and Latoka Lane – was withdrawn by its owner, Adolf Wagner.
Along with Zacher’s two parcels, the county’s construction managers, Contegrity Group, Inc, also evaluated the Douglas County Fairgrounds.
Based on soil borings and the availability of sanitary sewer and water lines, site development costs were worked up: $1.49 million for the 91-acres, $1.03 million for the 123-acres, and $1.49 million for the fairgrounds.
“They’re still moving targets because we don’t know exactly what the ultimate design or best design is for the sanitary sewer,” said Earl Fuechtmann with Contegrity. “That is really the big one.”
After soil borings were taken on both Zacher properties, water was found in the granular clay-type between 14 and 15 feet.
The fairgrounds would require a “significant amount of excavation” because of “bad soil;” there were also concerns about the property’s storm water drainage, Fuechtmann said.
Commissioner Norm Salto added that the 10-inch culvert running from the slough near the fairgrounds to Lake Cowdry wouldn’t be large enough to handle excess storm water. “Dumping that type of water into that area, somebody’s feet are gonna get wet,” he said.
Fuechtmann added that based on conversations with Alexandria City Planner Mike Weber, both of Zacher’s properties would likely be “well-supported” by the city, but the fairgrounds would encounter some opposition; it would require review by the city’s development review team – a lengthy process – to determine how it fits with its long-range plan.
Commissioners stressed, however, the importance of the law enforcement center remaining a joint facility between the county and the city.
“It allows all of our agencies to communicate on a daily basis and is a lot more effective working in the same building,” added Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen. The State Patrol and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension also have offices at the current law enforcement center.
To be sure the 91-acre site is feasible for the police department, commissioners agreed to send a letter to the city council, an action that was encouraging to Police Chief Rick Wyffels. Although he hasn’t been part of any formal land discussions with the county, he said, “I think the appropriate and professional thing to do would be to meet with the city.”
Wyffels confirmed that the city had hired an architect to review the feasibility of the city constructing its own facility “basically to consider all options.”
Project architect Scott Fettig reminded the board that the Minnesota Department of Corrections will close the current facility on August 1, 2009 if it’s not brought up to code or if a new facility isn’t open. Even though a new jail was under construction, Wabasha County’s inadequate jail was closed, despite a formal request for an extension, he said.
JAIL SITE EVALUATION
Three sites were evaluated for development feasibility for the Douglas County jail project. Areas reviewed included:
Selective site demolition and restoration.
Site clearing and earthwork.
Trench excavation and backfill for utilities.
Erosion and sediment control.
Storm water drainage.
Asphalt paved entrance drives and exterior concrete at entrance drives.
Cost estimates for each property were:
91-acres along Highway 27 West and Interstate 94: $1,497,518.
123-acres along Highway 27 West: $1,029,495.
Douglas County Fairgrounds: $1,498,640.