Plans are in the works to expand the Isanti County Sheriff’s Office 911 Dispatch Center, a project that county commissioners agreed to proceed with by accepting the general concept plan Feb. 5.
After the meeting, Chief Deputy Sheriff Chris Caulk said an expansion project is long overdue, as the building is “bursting at the seams” in places. And while the sheriff’s office has kept up to date on technology, such as the ARMER radio system, over the years, the room itself has never been expanded to accommodate for computer space. Now the radio system needs updating, he noted.
“Staff is working in a building that hasn’t been updated in 30 years,” he said.
The Dispatch Center consists of seven full-time dispatchers and one part-timer, and while it’s common for two to work together on a given shift, the lack of space will not accommodate for more if needed. Severe weather, a dispatch station breakdown or a big community event is reason enough for Caulk and staff to want the ability to have at least three dispatchers on duty at one time.
Neighboring counties have this capability, thanks to their own expansion projects over the years.
In Isanti County, the concept is to have a four-station dispatch center with three active stations and the fourth wired for future growth. Also, dispatchers will move from a 350-square-foot room to a 1,100-square-foot room where the four-stall garages are currently located. A line of new garages, with nine to 10 bigger stalls to fit more of a variety of law enforcement vehicles, is anticipated to go up along the east side of the property.
A larger sally port — a secure garage for transporting inmates — also is part of the plan.
“We’re always thinking ahead and about the future so we don’t have to rebuild,” said Caulk of not letting existing facilities go obsolete.
He also weighed in on the benefits — for both the employees who work for the sheriff’s office and the general public — and the responsibility of having a cost-effective project that will cover such things as radio console upgrades and not additional staff.
“It’s a benefit to the employees and the community because we can offer more of an efficient level of service,” Caulk said, noting the project will benefit the jail and maintenance department, as well. “We’re respectful to the fact that we must be fiscally responsible to taxpayers and match the long-term value of their dollar.”
He added, “We could have looked at this project in 2000-01. It’s long overdue. The building has exceeded its time, and we need the equipment to accommodate public safety 24/7. The building has never shut down in 30 years.”
While the project is anticipated to accommodate the needs of the sheriff’s office for the next 20 to 30 years, expansion is a never-ending process. Future plans will involve the jail, booking area, patrol division and records, Caulk noted.
“The county is realizing we have a 30-year-old building with needs of the 21st century,” he said.