Walls of new jail and justice center could go up soon

Published 9:46 am Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Dave Tollefson expects the walls of the new Mower County Jail and Justice Center to rise by early July.

Tollefson, 5th District county commissioner and chairman of the county board, said Tuesday, “We should see the walls go up in another month or so or by the first of July at the latest,” he said after Tuesday’s county board meeting.

The basement-less two-story, 128-bed jail and justice center is being constructed between Second and Fourth Avenues Northeast and First and Second Streets Northeast in downtown Austin.

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Concrete footings have been poured for the estimated $30 million facilities in the south of the two blocks acquired by the city of Austin for Mower County.

Just last week, the final structure — the former Anytime Fitness building — was demolished in the north of two blocks being cleared for the pubic safety facilities.

The jail and justice center will take up only the south block — Second Avenue Northeast to the north sidewalk along a one-block section of the vacated Third Avenue Northeast. The rest of the north (second) block area will be reserved for possible future jail and justice center expansion needs.

Meanwhile, a third downtown city block acquired by Mower County — the “Robbins block” from Third Avenue north to Second Avenue Northeast — will become a geothermal well field to heat and cool the jail and justice center facilities.

The first portion of the bonds sold to pay for the facilities are on this year’s property tax rolls.

They are the $10 million justice center-only lease revenue bonds authorized by the Mower County Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

Jail overcrowding coupled with the Minnesota Department of Corrections’ downsizing of the existing Mower County Jail’s cells forced the county to board-out prisoners.

When district court security and efficiency issues were included, the county commissioners agreed to build the new facility.

Completion date for the jail and justice center is anticipated to be sometime in the summer of 2010.

Also Tuesday, the commissioners paid more warrants related to the jail and justice center project.

Among the warrants paid was $139,622 to Knutson Construction Services, Inc., the project’s construction manager; The Joseph Co., Inc., $116,375, construction services; Schammel Electric, Inc., $82,080; Harty Mechanical, Inc., $71,250 (geothermal well field); Southern Minnesota Masonry, $30,400.

Also Tuesday, the commissioners abated a tax penalty in the amount of $188 for Dale Ellinger.

The abatement was recommended by Mower County Auditor-Treasurer Doug Groh after an examination of the request.

Ray Tucker, 2nd District, made the motion to grant the refund and Dick Lang, 4th District, seconded it.

All five commissioners voted “aye.’

The commissioners also approved adding items to the next surplus county property auction June 10.

Among the items were a breathalyzer kit, forfeited vehicles and typewriters.