Final design for courthouse closer

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 9, 2002

The county paved the way for determining a final design for the new judicial center at their board meeting Tuesday.

A concept design, consisting of a 87,000 square-foot new building and a 36,000 square-foot renovation of the existing Law Enforcement Center, proposed by the Boarman Kroos Vogel Group (BKV) has been challenged by concerns that their jail population estimate could be overrated.

Specifically, Commis-sioner Dan Belshan and Glen Mathiason asked to have another jail needs study completed by hiring a different consulting firm.

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But the other three commissioners disagreed and voted down the proposal. “We have enough numbers and facts,” said commissioner Dave Mullenbach. For him, spending more resources and time on the study would be nothing but a waste.

The board also eliminated the possibility of having an off-site work-release facility like some other counties have. Sheriff Don Nolander has pointed out that the separation would double the staff size and increase the costs.

Belshan questioned the status of research by the National Institute of Corrections the county applied for last August, and asked the county to push the agency for reactivating the study.

County Administrator Ron Gabrielsen said that the study has been at a standstill, and the county would need to reapply. The agency sent a letter to Gabrielsen on January saying it had failed to schedule the research and would close the request

due to a shortage in funding.

The board voted for giving up pursuit of a further study by the NIC by three to two.

“The NIC was stonewalled, as I have been, in getting accurate information on prisoner status in Freeborn County,” said Belshan. “It is unfortunate that the only real advice and the timeline with a push to build comes from the architect who was hired before a needs study was done and has steered the entire process from the


Belshan raised examples in other counties in Minnesota and Wisconsin where an exaggerated inmate population projection has resulted in an overcapacity.

“Let’s follow the proper procedures and due diligence and learn from the mistakes of other counties, instead of following the pied piper architect,” he said.

BKV architects have been conducting a series of meetings with the county officials to adjust the concept design.

The board also agreed to a request by the Minnesota Department of Corrections to include a 1,500 square-foot space in the new facility.

The only remaining major issue that would influence the final design is whether the 1954 administrative building should be removed or not.

A citizen group advocating the demolition submitted a petition with 262 signatures to the commissioners. Chairman Mullenbach said the board would discuss the issue at the next meeting.