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New LEC up and running in Murray County

justine wettschreck/Daily Globe Murray County Sheriff Steve Telkamp (left) and Commissioners Bill Sauer, Kevin Vickerman, Bob Moline, John Giese and Gerald Magnus cut the ribbon officially opening the new law enforcement center Thursday afternoon in Slayton.

SLAYTON -- It has been a long time coming.

Murray County Commissioners and Sheriff Steve Telkamp picked up scissors Thursday afternoon and officially cut the ribbon -- a length of bright yellow "caution" tape -- officially opening the new law enforcement center that has been needed for years.

"This project had been looked at for many years. When the law enforcement center was first built in 1974, there were two full-time deputies," said commissioner chairman Bob Moline. "Now we've added deputies, have the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force and an ICAC (Internet Crimes Against Children) team."

In the old LEC, deputies shared a desk and computer, and the lack of space to store evidence was a constant problem. There were no private interview rooms, the reception area was tiny and manned by a dispatcher, and there simply wasn't room for the technology needed these days.

The discussion on whether or not to build during an economy that wasn't very strong took three years and was tabled several times, but was given a jump start when talk of building a regional dispatch center came up. Murray County's bid to house a regional dispatch fizzled, as did the entire regional dispatch project, but by 2010 the county had spent close to $100,000 on architectural time, having space assessments and working with the sheriff's office to find out what needs should be met. Commissioners finally voted to go through with the project after a lot of discussion and a public meeting.

Renovation to the older section of the building began in May 2011, with construction on a new section beginning later that summer. The warm, mild winter made it possible to keep things humming right along, and before long, new equipment was being installed, office furniture was being put in place and the transition from construction-mode to operation was complete.

A new dispatch office with up-to-date technology was put in place, office and conference rooms were ready to go, a storage area with storm shelter were in the basement and a reception area was up and running.

Commissioners Gerald Magnus and John Giese were on the building committee, and together with Auditor/Treasurer Heidi Winter, Telkamp, Chief Deputy Randy Donahue, Jail Administrator Donna Mollema and Emergency Management Director Jim Reinert, day to day operations were watched as the project progressed.

Architects for the project were Brian Bergstrom and Gayle Make from SEH, with engineer Steve Robinson. The main contractor was Salonek Concrete and Construction, who hired subcontractors, many of them local businesses, to complete the project.

The remodeled area includes a room that houses the computers and equipment needed for the ARMER radio system, a locker room/shower area, laundry facility and a fingerprinting room. The small office that once belonged to the sheriff now houses all of the ICAC equipment. The newly constructed areas hold offices, a break room, private interview areas and a set of stairs and an elevator, which leads to the lower level evidence storage area. New HVAC equipment was added to keep the LEC and courthouse balanced to keep heating and cooling costs down.

The new entrance isn't far from where the old one was, but the reception area is bright and open, with a receptionist to help people and answer questions available during business hours Monday through Friday.

"We may have built more than is needed today, but we really wanted to build toward the future," Commissioner Kevin Vickerman said. "This project has been a long time coming, but we're happy with the results."

During an open house Thursday afternoon after the ribbon cutting, residents from in and around the county took the opportunity to look things over, chat with commissioners and visit parts of the LEC that normally will not be open to the public. School children walked through the building with their teachers, side by side with adults of all ages who were curious to see the results of construction they had only glimpsed from the outside.