Green light for county’s dispatch center project

The Isanti County Board on July 2 agreed, by consensus, to proceed with a construction project at the Isanti County Sheriff’s Office 911 Dispatch Center.

Presenting was architect Randy Engel, noting construction for the project will cost about $1.2 million. The total can be broken down into two main parts: an expanded dispatch center and sally port — a secure garage for transporting inmates  — and three new heated garage buildings lining the east side of the property.

In February, Chief Deputy Chris Caulk said an expansion project is long overdue, as the building is “bursting at the seams” in places. 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 the department to want the ability to have at least three dispatchers on duty at one time, Caulk explained.

For the project, the concept is to have a four-station dispatch center with three active stations and the fourth wired for future growth. 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.

Caulk weighed in on the benefits — for 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,” he 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 an ongoing process. Future plans likely will involve the jail, booking area, patrol division and records.

On the time frame, Engel estimated the bidding process between Aug. 21 and Sept. 18, followed by the County Board awarding the low bidder in later September.

Construction may start soon thereafter and shouldn’t take that much time to do (six to eight months), but issues from soil borings, for instance, can happen, he said. By May 2015, the project could be near completion with occupied buildings in phases, Engel noted.

“I think we’re ready to move forward,” said Boardchair Mike Warring, who liked the idea of viewing different bid packages and bidding options.

“The public can be assured the county is using money in a way that’s not just expanding the campus,” Engel added.

Numbers down at Regional Juvenile Center

Probation Director Tim MacMillan said efforts in reaching Isanti County youth — primarily those who have committed delinquent acts — appear to be making a difference, during his presentation of the East Central Regional Juvenile Center 2013 report.

The Regional Juvenile Center is a 36-bed maximum security facility that serves males and females ages 10-18. It offers detention, court detention and waiting placement; week and weekend programs; short-term treatment; transition programming; chemical dependency services; and a 21-day diagnostic assessment.

MacMillan, noting juvenile detention centers do not always work in Minnesota, said the Regional Juvenile Center accomplished much in 2013. Having averaged a daily population of about 31 youth, it succeeded with ongoing implementation of evidence-based practices, staff movement and summer programming in collaboration with Operation No Limits, a nonprofit that provides youth with life and cognitive skills.

He credited the leadership of the center’s Joint Powers Committee, consisting of commissioners and probation supervisors from the member counties of Anoka, Chisago, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Pine, Sherburne, Washington and Wright.

According to the 2013 report, 9,756 beds were used at the Regional Juvenile Center. Of those, 479 were occupied by Isanti County youth who accounted for 602 beds in 2012.

Also among the lowest was the 71 youths from Isanti County — 34 fewer than the year before — who were placed at the center. Only Kanabec and Pine counties had fewer youth, with Anoka County leading the way with 257 youths.

While the Regional Juvenile Center is for kids who are arrested in the community, MacMillan explained, the goal is to keep juveniles at home with outpatient services unless they are deemed a hazard to themselves or the community.

Zoning administrator hired

The board interviewed Troy Winterfield and Trina Bergloff, the two finalists for the zoning administrator position that became vacant with the retirement of Tim Anderson.

Commissioners offered the position to Bergloff, who already had been serving as interim administrator, and she accepted, confirmed County Administrator Kevin VanHooser after the meeting. The appointment is anticipated to be ratified by the board at the July 16 meeting.

Parks in Isanti

Commissioners accepted a request from the city of Isanti to acquire two tax-forfeited parcels on a conditional use deed for the authorized public use of parks.

One parcel, consisting of 38 acres at Rum River Meadows, offers 2,800 feet of Rum River frontage with designated state wild and scenic river and state water trail. It’s intended to be a passive public park with walking and hiking trails and natural areas.

The second, a 27-acre parcel at Villages on the Rum Fifth Addition, includes 1,700 feet of frontage on the river with similar state wild, scenic river and water trail designations. The intention here is a public park or open space with nonrecreational elements for walking and hiking.

Public Health organized

Public Health Director Tony Buttacavoli updated the board on those serving on the Public Health Commission, which advises the Health Board on matters including the annual budget and five-year plan, health policies and special research as needed.

District 1 is represented by Gwen O’Brien, of Cambridge; District 2, Pauline Grossbach, Braham; District 3, Joe Crocker, Cambridge; District 4, Sharon Shelley, Isanti; and District 5, Pat Sundberg, Isanti.

Serving the commission as medical consultant is Dr. Donald Deye; Virginia Vidor, clinical or nurse representative; and Susan Morris, county commissioner.

In other action, the board:

  • Rescheduled its first regular meeting in September to 9 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 2. Meetings typically are held the first and third Wednesdays of the month.
  • Approved its 2015 work sessions to discuss and develop the 2015 budget for Isanti County. Ten meetings, beginning on Tuesday, July 22, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., were scheduled. The last meeting on Sept. 17 is when the board plans to adopt the preliminary 2015 levy and budget.