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LEC construction issue to go to public meeting

SLAYTON -- The Murray County Commissioners decided Tuesday to delay any decision regarding an addition to the current law enforcement center (LEC) until the public can have their say.

A public informational meeting is now scheduled for 7 p.m. June 24 in the commissioner's room at the Murray County Goverment Building in Slayton.

More than $100,000 has already been spent on analysis of the current LEC and the plans to revamp the facility, but board members have yet to commit to a final "go ahead" vote. The restructuring and addition is estimated to cost $1.4 million.

The LEC construction project showed up the Murray County agenda in late April after being set aside several times since 2007. New interest in the project was sparked by a study for a regional dispatch center.

Short Elliot Hendrickson Inc. (SEH) prepared a two-phase approach and was asking for $9,500 to prepare the project for bids -- the first phase. In April, the commissioners tabled a decision for week so they could gather more facts, but at the first meeting in May the decision was again delayed so they could gather additional information.

A commissioner's retreat to discuss the situation was scheduled for Monday, with the board stating its intent to vote on the project at the Tuesday meeting. Instead, the public forum was scheduled.

"This way we can see what the sentiment out there is," said commissioner Kevin Vickerman.

During Monday's three-hour gathering, commissioners looked into alternate space and made a motion to have SEH work up costs on refurbishing the current Murray County Extension offices and moving the sheriff's office into that facility.

On Tuesday morning, however, the commissioners learned it would cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 for SEH to draw up plans, which would take one or two months.

"Is that really a viable option?" Vickerman asked the others." I have no problem exploring other options, but how much money do we put into exploring?"

He referred to moving the law enforcement offices to another part of the building as a "piecemeal, temporary fix," adding that the construction would still need to take place in the long run. A public meeting would give citizens a chance to express their opinions, he said. People he spoke to on the subject were equally divided between going forward with the project or dumping it.

Chairman John Giese reminded the other commissioners if the project went forward, it would still mean a $170,000 payment each year in a county where the budget was stretched tight.

"Can we make a commitment to reduce the sheriff's office budget by $100,000 a year?" Vickerman suggested. "I think we can do it."

Deciding the shuffling of offices would not accomplish much, the commissioners withdrew the motion to ask SEH to draw up plans and consulted their individual schedules so a public meeting could be planned -- a trickier prospect than it sounds due to summer vacations and other meetings. During the discussion of dates, Commissioner Bill Sauer stated it was nice to ask the people what they wanted, but that they were elected to make these kinds of decisions.

"It seems to me that if nobody wants (the new LEC), then it would be foolish to go ahead," he said.

In other business, the commissioners opened bids for a road construction project on Murray County 6 in Avoca. The engineering estimate on the project was for $873,107, and the three bids opened came in at $826,978 for Central Specialties Inc. out of Alexandria, $807,951 for R&G Construction of Marshall and $773,221 for Rupp Construction of Slayton.

The bids will have to be read thoroughly before a company is awarded the contract, but according to Murray County Engineer Randy Groves, the project will likely be awarded at the June 1 meeting. The large project, he said, is an "all-summer deal." It is being funded federally at the 80 percent level, he added.