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County mulls size of joint LEC building

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Although it wasn't on the agenda and no board action was taken, the topic of a new joint Law Enforcement Center (LEC) was a big part of the discussion at Tuesday's regular Douglas County board meeting.

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John McNamara from Wold Architects and Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen addressed the five-member board about the proposed joint LEC, which would house the Douglas County Sheriff's Office and the Alexandria Police Department.

McNamara talked about the size of the proposed building, which totals 57,500 square feet. He then broke down square footage estimates for the sheriff's office, which totaled 19,248 square feet.

The cost of the project, which wasn't as hot of topic as the size of the building at this point, is estimated at $11.95 million - $6,334,000 would be the county's share and $5,616,000 would be the city's share.

McNamara told commissioners that at Monday night's regular Alexandria City Council meeting, the council voted 5-0 to proceed with the second phase of the LEC project, which includes preparing plans, drawings and specifications.

However, the action is contingent on approval from the Douglas County Board.

After McNamara explained the space needs for the sheriff's office, Commissioner Jerry Johnson stated that the space requirements from July of 2007 for the joint LEC were for a total square footage of 46,675.

"We haven't had time to do comparisons," said Johnson. "Holy cow, have things grown a little since then?"

Commissioner Paul Anderson, who is on the committee for the joint LEC, said, "John [McNamara] and his staff met with the program committee and we gave them bare bones needs. After our second meeting, it [the size of the building] came down quite a bit."

Johnson then asked about a storage shed that is currently on the property where the new LEC would be built, which is also the same property where the new Douglas County Jail is being constructed.

Johnson wanted to know if that building was going to remain on the property or be torn down.

Sheriff Wolbersen explained that his office would be using that building as additional space for seasonal storage and maintenance storage. For example, he said it would store lawnmowers, snowblowers, water patrol equipment, snowmobiles, etc.

He also stressed that it would not be used as a parking garage and it would not be heated.

Wolbersen said the building needs some siding, but that the cost to do so was also budgeted for and part of the jail project funding.

After a brief exchange between Johnson and Wolbersen about the building and its use, McNamara gave square footage comparisons for the sheriff's office space from the 2007 study and the current estimates.

The estimates were as follows:

•Administration: 2007 - 2,017 square feet; 2009 - 1,952 square feet.

•Patrol: 2007 - 2,773 square feet; 2009 - 2,470 square feet.

•Investigations: 2007 - 2,611 square feet; 2009 - 1,924 square feet.

•Records: 2007 - 2,138 square feet; 2009 - 1,562 square feet.

•Staff support: 2007 - 4,469 square feet; 2009 - 1,750 square feet.

•Evidence: 2007 - 2,329 square feet; 2009 - 2,142 square feet.

•Dispatch: 2007 - 3,263 square feet; 2009 - 2,814 square feet.

•Emergency Operations Center (EOC): 2007 - 1,939 square feet; 2009 - 602 square feet.

•Garage: 2007 - 2,783 square feet; 2009 - 4,032 square feet.

•Outside agencies: 2007 - 1,053 square feet; 2009 - 1,092 square feet.

Wolbersen explained that four outside agencies are asking for space in the joint LEC - the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), West Central Drug Task Force, Minnesota State Patrol and Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

A question was asked if the outside agencies would pay to have the 1,092 square feet of space in the LEC, to which Wolbersen replied, "Do they pay rent? I think they do by assisting us on cases."

Commissioner Johnson said that the costs should then be shared with the city and Wolbersen said he didn't disagree with him.

But Wolbersen also stressed the importance of having those agencies within the LEC and that having the outside agencies is very beneficial.

Commissioner Bev Bales questioned the square footage needed for the county's portion of the LEC and called the numbers "shocking."

"All of my square footage decreased from the original [estimates]," Wolbersen pointed out to the commissioners.

Commissioner Anderson reiterated that the joint center is contingent on the county's approval.

"It's a package deal," he said.

Johnson said, "We're already building a $13 million jail and now this - a $12 million LEC. Holy cow."

Johnson was disappointed that the information about the joint LEC was just coming forward and that he was "certainly not willing to make a commitment today."

He continued by telling the other commissioners, "Each of you can figure out a way to pay for this."

Johnson then made a motion to table the discussion so that no action could be taken.

Wolbersen explained that everything brought forward at the board meeting was for informational purposes.

"It wasn't meant to be board action today," he said.

Johnson then asked McNamara if there was something in writing about each of the phases for the joint LEC, to which he replied, "Yes, there is an overall schedule."

Johnson said all board members should receive copies of that information, along with all the past and future minutes of the jail and LEC committee meetings, along with any handouts or information provided at those meetings.

"I don't have to attend the meetings, I just want the information. It's a courtesy to the board," stated Johnson.

Anderson told Johnson that he has all the information and that Johnson has never asked for anything until now.

Wolbersen told Johnson and the other board members that he wanted to remind them that this - the jail and LEC - started out as a single project and now it has turned into two.

"It's important to remember that this is still one project," he stated. "It just has two separate buildings."

Johnson then fired back, stating, "Back then, we didn't have the economy, levy limits or budget restraints we do now."

Wolbersen retorted, "I am just reminding you."

The board is expected to take action on the joint LEC at its next meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday, July 28 at 9 a.m.

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