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Regional jail idea on front burner

With Phase II of the new jail process under way, the Douglas County commissioners continue to keep an open dialogue with surrounding counties about the possibility of jail collaboration efforts.

With Phase II of the new jail process under way, the Douglas County commissioners continue to keep an open dialogue with surrounding counties about the possibility of jail collaboration efforts.

Commissioners met with representatives from three surrounding counties - Stevens, Todd and Traverse - again last week to update them on Douglas County's jail plans. Representatives from Grant and Pope counties were unable to attend the meeting.

Phase II of Douglas County's jail planning process will involve selecting an exact jail site location and developing a floor plan of the building, staffing plan and preliminary cost estimate.

"Our study is geared toward what we need in Douglas County," said Commissioner Dan Olson. "However, we are willing to tweak it if other counties want to get involved."

"We have to move on, whether it's with other counties or not," said Douglas County Sheriff Bill Ingebrigtsen. "At any given time, other counties can jump in. We're not leaving anyone in the dust."

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If surrounding counties are interested in pursuing a joint jail effort with Douglas County, there is a possibility to obtain state funding for the project.

Local legislators told commissioners at a meeting in December that they would be willing to author a bill to bring before the Legislature, possibly this biennium.

"It's a win-win situation if we get something from them," Olson said. "If we can get some funding, it will help drive our decision."

"We have to start somewhere," said Commissioner John Mingus. "If not this year, we'll try again next year. It's a big teamwork operation."

Stevens, Todd and Traverse County representatives all indicated that, at a minimum, 72-hour holds are necessary within their counties.

Although all the counties pointed out that they have jail needs, they aren't sure how those needs will be addressed in the future.

Douglas County commissioners suggested that they attend the surrounding counties' board meetings so all can be aware of what is happening here.

"It's a question of how you want to go," Olson said. "It's food for thought if nothing else. We need to really put our heads together and work on this."

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Ingebrigtsen said Douglas County's next step is holding public forums in each of the commissioner's districts.

"We have to be open and honest [with the public]," he said.

Meanwhile, the surrounding counties continue to meet seperately from Douglas County.

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