BENSON — The Swift County Board of Commissioners has scaled back earlier plans to address facilities needs, and commissioners are now looking at projects much smaller in scope.
They are looking to move the 6W Community Corrections office back to the Law Enforcement Center at the courthouse. They also want to upgrade an aged heating and ventilation system at the LEC and upgrade the office area there.
At their meeting Tuesday, the commissioners instructed Wold Architects and Engineers, of St. Paul, to work with the county’s facilities committee to develop plans for the improvements. They also discussed interest in improving security for the county's separate Health and Human Services building.
A preliminary cost estimate for upgrading the Law Enforcement Center and developing offices for 6W in the lower level of the LEC/courthouse building is just over $1 million, including architectural fees, according to information provided by Jonathan Loose, of Wold Architects.
The architect also provided a separate, preliminary estimate of $1.15 million to develop a new entryway for the LEC and 6W.
The commissioners expressed different opinions in how to move forward with addressing building needs, but informally agreed work needs to be done.
They noted that they are being responsive to what the public asked when they dropped the earlier plans for an estimated $17.8 million renovation and expansion of the LEC and jail.
That original plan called for replacing the LEC and the jail with a larger facility. It would have expanded the jail from its current nine-inmate capacity to 25 to 30.
The current plan keeps the existing LEC and does not increase jail capacity. In their discussions, the commissioners noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has led them to reconsider space needs overall. For the jail, there is the possibility that fewer offenders will be held than has been the case in the past.
The needs for county office space may decrease as well. Health and Human Services may not need as much space for face-to-face meetings with clients. The pandemic has demonstrated that many services can be effectively provided through electronic connections, it was pointed out during discussions.
The plans to move 6W Corrections back to the LEC is supported both by the agency and law enforcement and the courts, according to information presented at the meeting. There is one sticking point: The current plan would shrink the meeting space where the commissioners now meet by about one-half to provide room for the 6W offices.
Sheriff John Holtz said his staff also uses the meeting room space for training. The commissioners voiced their concerns about the loss of the meeting room space, since it accommodates public hearings with larger crowds.
They expressed different views on whether to hold meetings off-site in city buildings where more space may be available.
Commissioner Eric Rudningen, a member of the facilities committee, said consistency in the meeting location should be a priority.
Wold will be presenting plans for the improvements being considered to the facilities committee in the next two weeks. The commissioners could act on a plan in a month.