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Jail boarding bill soars

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news Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

When the numbers are crunched, Becker County staff says there is a real need for a new jail in the very near future.

Last month, the county paid $25,000 to Hubbard County for housing inmates that won’t fit in Becker County’s facility. The county is estimated to pay about $300,000 to $400,000 a year to Hubbard County. And that doesn’t include transportation costs.

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“It’s costing us a lot more than we originally thought,” Sheriff Kelly Shannon told the County Board on Tuesday.

While the subject wasn’t discussed too much in depth, County Administrator Jack Ingstad said he wanted the commissioners to know that this is a concern and a need for jail options is coming up in the near future.

Besides saving on the cost to housing inmates in Hubbard County, Shannon estimates the county could save 30 percent of its $2 million personnel budget if the jail was laid out better.

With the way the jail is arranged now, there needs to be many more eyes on the rooms and hallways. In a more modern design, there would be a control room at the center and long hallways with unobstructed lines of sight.

The county has been looking at various types of jails that could be built to house Becker County’s inmates, and one option being looked at is a modular facility. Douglas County, Shannon said, is a good example of one.

“Douglas County is about mirror to us,” Shannon said regarding space needs and the building of their facility.

“I’m starting to think this is an opportunity for different options,” Ingstad said.

“It’s not the cost of the building but the need for a building at this point,” Commissioner Larry Knutson said.

There is still the option to have a shared, regional facility as well.

Besides having issues with the layout of the facility, the county jail received poor grades at a recent review with the Minnesota Department of Corrections, and the county has been trying to remedy some of those deficiencies.

The board approved some of the work being done including light fixtures, stainless steel toilets, water softener, upgrade of some cameras and television screens for monitoring cameras, water pipes and other various materials.

About $70,000 has been budgeted for the work.

The board plans on additional discussion about the need for a jail at the May 13 meeting.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.

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