Despite the objection of two commissioners, Anoka County is moving into the second phase of the design of a new prison and a 911 call center. Phase 2 will cost more than $ 17 million.
In April, the board of directors approved a $ 44,500 contract with Wold Architects for site plan design services for a new prison, 911 call center, workshop and parking structure. The council reviewed a site plan during a working session on October 1.
Wold proposed to locate the 911 call center at the corner of Bunker Lake Boulevard and Hanson Boulevard in Andover, next to the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office.
The proposed prison and parking ramp would remain in the area of ââthe county government center in Anoka. The two-storey prison would encompass the space occupied by the existing parking ramp and prison. The seven-level parking ramp would include 1,200 parking spaces and would be surrounded by Fourth Avenue, Golf Street, Fifth Avenue and Jackson Street in Anoka.
The county work house would be expanded to its current location, 3300 Fourth Ave., in Anoka.
In a 4-2 vote on October 12, county council approved an updated contract with Wold, with Commissioners Matt Look and Jeff Reinert dissenting. Commissioner Julie Braastad, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, was absent. The contract could cost as much as $ 13.2 million.
In a second 4-2 vote, the board approved a $ 4 million contract amendment with ICS for construction management services for the project. ICS helped the county select an architectural firm and coordinate the work between the architect and county departments. The amendment is intended for continued support as the County and Wold Architects enter the second design phase of the project.
For the second phase of the project, Wold will further prepare designs, coordinate tenders and ensure all necessary codes and regulations are followed.
“Signing this doesn’t mean we are completely finalizing the project,” said Cory Kampf, director of the county’s finance and central services division. âThere will be other decisions along the way. … This allows us to begin the final design process, which is probably going to take almost a year for some buildings, a few years for the prison itself, but a year when you look at the parking ramp, when you look 911 installation.
If at some point the board decides not to proceed with Wold Architects on the project, only the money spent up to that point will be lost, Kampf said.
âIt’s a long process, it’s a four to five year process,â Kampf said.
It would be a waste for the board to spend almost $ 18 million on a project and then walk away, Reinert said.
âIt really gives the project the green light,â he said.
Reinert feared the board would rush into changing the contract without having enough time to think it over. The board had 11 days between reviewing the site plan and approving the contract amendment. The project has been under construction for about four years.
The commissioners did not receive a copy of the sitemap before the working session, Reinert said, so there was also no time to review it before the working session.
He offered to continue the conversation at a later date, a motion which ultimately fell through 3-3. Commissioners Look, Reinert and Robyn West voted in favor.
âIt’s not something that I think we want to rush,â Reinert said. âOf course, some would say that a four-year process doesn’t rush it. We really just got the information we need to have a really good discussion 11 days ago.
Meisner then proposed to suspend the vote on the contract modification until October 26, when Braastad will be present, but that motion failed 3-3. Meisner, Reinert and Look voted in favor.
Look wanted to have the possibility of having the contribution of the taxpayers concerning the project.
âI absolutely think they have to have a say,â Look said.
He considered putting the measure on a ballot because the total project could cost over $ 300 million.
Look also proposed to increase sales tax to match neighboring counties, with a fixed end date to revert to the current sales tax.
âRemember that sales tax is not always paid by residents of Anoka County,â Look said. “People walking through Anoka County buy things, pay sales tax.”
The sales tax increase would require state legislative approval, Commissioner Scott Schulte said.
Look said he had yet to see sufficient evidence that the prison needs to be replaced in the first place.
âI want proof that this facility is going to be shut down if we don’t build a new one,â Look said.
Sheriff James Stuart said Look will not see a written report that says so, but he heard verbal comments from the Department of Corrections on the need to improve the prison. Stuart also said he has had concerns about the prison and its suitability for inmates and staff since he was first elected.
Not only does the prison lack enough space for all of its inmates, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown it is not made for quarantine or any sort of medical and mental health care, said Stuart.
âWe have an exceptional team at this prison that manages accountability, doing their best with a facility designed for literally half of the inmates assigned to it and working in a drastically undersized and outdated infrastructure,â said Stuart. .
He said that when the prison was built in 1983, it hardly suited the needs of the time, let alone the needs of today.
It was designed for 140 inmates. Many rooms are now double booked, Schulte said. The county sent inmates to other counties due to lack of space in the jail.
Commissioners Mandy Meisner and Mike Gamache agreed that taxpayers should be better informed about the project, but they were not necessarily in favor of a referendum.
Gamache said the surety bond is an appropriate tool for the project, as paying down the debt would affect future residents and not just those living in the county right now.
âWe’re going to have more people, we’re going to have more people coming in, and they should be paying for that in the future,â Gamache said. âThis is why we are linked. “
Schulte sees the new jail, 911 call center, parking ramp and work house as an investment the county needs to make. He compared the current facility to a vehicle, where if the maintenance costs exceed the value of the car, it’s time to buy a new one.