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LEC debate continues at public meeting

SLAYTON -- By the end of the public meeting regarding the expansion and renovation of the Murray County Law Enforcement Center Thursday, Murray County Commissioner Kevin Vickerman admitted to the Daily Globe on the record he was supportive of the $1.4 million project that would give the sheriff's office the space it desperately needs.

Chair John Giese and Commissioners Bill Sauer and Bob Moline refused to comment on whether their individual votes regarding the project's fruition would be for or against the expansion that has been discussed for more than three years.

The public meeting drew a small amount of people with questions regarding the project, but several had questions about the proposed plans, which were drafted by Short Elliot Hendrickson (SEH) two years ago. Steve Robinson of SEH was on hand to give a brief overview and provide any answers he could. The county has spent between $90,000 and $100,000 on architectural time, providing a space assessment and working with the sheriff's department on a plan that would fit their needs, he estimated.

The current plans, which would need brief updating to make sure things were still up to code, would provide almost 4,000 square feet of space on the main level and an additional 3,600 square feet in the basement, as well as new heating and air conditioning systems for both the new construction and renovated space. Contingency is also bid into the estimate, he said, to cover minor alterations or bids that came in higher than expected.

Slayton resident Jim Gerber had several questions about the research into alternate plans such as moving the extension office and housing law enforcement-related offices in that space.

"We could purchase and remodel another business for about half the cost (of the expansion) but then there would be separate campuses, more lawn care and snow removal expenses and we would have the public bouncing around," Vickerman stated. "It would also be cumbersome to have the extension office bouncing around, and human resources, public affairs and the EDA bouncing around. They interact with (the government center) all the time."

Adding in the cost of making the extension offices secure enough for sheriff office purposes, plus another $150,000 to update HVAC and lighting would bring the cost of shuffling offices to almost two-thirds of the projected cost for construction.

Responding to another question from Gerber, Murray County Auditor/Treasurer Heidi Winter said the project would have to be bonded, at a debt service of approximately $174,000 annually on a 10-year bond. The tax impact on a $175,000 residence would be under $20 annually.

Vickerman said the county currently has no other plans for expanding other county entities, although the highway department does have a wish list. The only thing in the foreseeable future that would be a major investment could be radios for the ARMER system.

The idea of using a newly constructed LEC to house a regional dispatch center is not very feasible, Vickerman explained, mostly because the space added in the construction plan is needed by the sheriff's office.

Avoca resident Arl Weinrebe asked if the new plan would change the way people are held in holding cells and housed at the Nobles County Jail.

"Right now, with our classification, we can't hold full-time prisoners," Murray County Sheriff Steve Telkamp explained. "We would keep what is existing. It has worked out very well."

When it comes to the possibility of regionalizing dispatch centers, Telkamp said a stand-alone building that would be neutral for all counties is preferred.

An added bonus to the plans is space that could be utilized as an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in the event of a major disaster, according to Emergency Management Director Jim Reinert. The basement could be used for employees in the event of a tornado, he added.

"I think it is time a decision gets made," Weinrebe said. "Move forward. This is a needed project."

The earliest the project can be put back on the board's agenda is July 6, and Robinson said he could have a timeline ready by that date.

If the commissioners approve the project, it could possibly be put out for bid by Aug. 1 and construction could begin by October, he added. With a cooperative fall, it could be completed by spring of 2011.