Jail site suggestedSix sites for a new Douglas County jail have been researched and ranked, and only one has scored the highest – an 80-acre site just west of Alexandria city limits.
By: Erin Klegstad, Staff Reporter, Alexandria Echo Press
Six sites for a new Douglas County jail have been researched and ranked, and only one has scored the highest – an 80-acre site just west of Alexandria city limits.
The Douglas County Criminal Justice Development Committee (DCCJDC) passed a resolution last Thursday supporting the negotiation and purchase of property owned by Arnold and Violet Backhaus located at Nevada Street and Highway 27 West.
The committee will recommend the property to the Douglas County Board on Tuesday for it to consider. The board has the final say on which property is purchased.
“This is a step in the right direction,” said John Mingus, committee member and county commissioner. “We need to come to a conclusion one way or another.”
He said that property allows for future expansion and has plenty of room for parking. “The Backhaus property is not undesirable,” Mingus said. “It is more than ample [in size].”
“If we think it’s site one, we have to buy it to get the project going,” said Tom Osterberg, committee member.
Opposition to the
The decision to recommend the property, however, wasn’t without opposition at the committee’s meeting.
Commissioner Bev Bales called the property a “ridiculous” site for future expansion. She said the amount of wetland on the property would scatter buildings all over.
Commissioner Jerry Johnson said the site has too many wetlands. “It’s a terrible place to put a courthouse,” he said. “I have more respect for our local government than putting this out in some slough.”
“Out of all of the sites, I would like to revert back to number five [the downtown location],” Bales said. “We can’t seem to get the cooperation from the board to look better at that site. We have to look at what we can afford.”
She said transportation costs would be saved if the downtown location was expanded.
Osterberg pointed out to Bales that they spent six months reviewing the downtown site, and it was ruled out by the county board with a 5-0 vote. He said it would be a “bad, bad mistake” to expand at the downtown location.
Mingus added that the downtown site could have chlorine-contaminated soil from the leaking pool to deal with.
Bales also pointed out that the Backhaus property is located near the Alexandria Lake Area Sanitary District (ALASD) treatment facility, which poses a threat of a chlorine leak and a possible odor. “Prisoners are sometimes the pickiest people in the world,” she said.
In a letter from ALASD’s Executive Director Bruce Nelson, he recommended that prior to purchasing the Backhaus property, the county board review the district’s risk management plan. ALASD’s board has not taken a position on the county purchasing the property.
In the district’s 28-year history, no chlorine leak has ever occurred. If there were a chlorine leak, the worst-case scenario would call for evacuation within a 1.3-mile radius of the facility, which would include the Backhaus property, according to Nelson.
Although odor from the treatment facility rarely leaves the site, removal of treated biosolids for farmland is odorous, Nelson said.