Last week, the Becker County Board approved hiring a consultant to look at options surrounding the county jail.

Allen Brinkman of St. Cloud will be coming to town to determine the county’s needs in terms of a jail, possible locations for a new jail and staffing considerations.

Brinkman worked for the Department of Corrections doing jail inspections for years before starting his own consulting firm. He helped with the Douglas County and Kanabec County jail projects, which both used the pod system that Becker County is interested in exploring.

The county approved a $40,000 consulting contract with Brinkman, with a $3,000 down payment and monthly payments of $1,550. County Administrator Jack Ingstad said Brinkman could conduct a work session with the county as soon as the next board meeting.

In the contract, the county is able to relieve Brinkman of his services with a 60-day notification. The county board said that was an important part of the contract because in case the county doesn’t go forward with a new jail, they wouldn’t need Brinkman’s services for the two-year contract.

Commissioner John Okeson said that he met Brinkman on the jail tours in other counties and Brinkman is very knowledgeable.

Commissioner Barry Nelson said that he was hesitant to move forward with the consultant because he wasn’t sure a new jail was the answer. He said he felt that by hiring a consultant it meant the county was moving forward with a construction project.

Instead, he suggested, maybe Brinkman could give the county advice on cost cutting options for their jails rather than just how to build a new one.

Instad said that Brinkman will certainly do that as part of the contract. He said that Brinkman will look at the maximum and minimum security jails, cost-saving options and other items the county board wants him to research.

“If we don’t do anything, we’ll still be talking about this next year,” Commissioner Larry Knutson said of moving forward and hiring a consultant.

Commissioner Don Skarie supported the move also, saying that the board and staff don’t have the know-how to assess the options without a consultant.

The commissioners voted unanimously to hire Brinkman.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.