Tyler Johnson of Vetter Johnson Architects

The former Onamia creamery site is one option for a potential Mille Lacs County northern law enforcement center. Pictured is Tyler Johnson of Vetter Johnson Architects detailing the possible Onamia creamery site during the regular county board meeting on July 16.

Potential plans for a new northern law enforcement center were proposed and discussed at the July 16 Mille Lacs County board meeting. An architect from Vetter Johnson brought forth preliminary plans for possible sites. The northern law enforcement center would serve as a northern headquarters for deputies, investigators, and K9s; as a temporary holding facility; and would house other necessary spaces.

The two sites given serious consideration were a location in Cove, Minn. (northeast of Onamia at the south end of Mille Lacs Lake) and the former Onamia Creamery property.

Tyler Johnson, an architect with Vetter Johnson, laid out the pros and cons of each of the locations.

“This was brought to us in 2017, and it seems logical to have a satellite facility to the north with the lake activity,” said Johnson.

Johnson said the pros for the Cove site are its location at the north end of the county, its adequate site size, its proximity to an existing search and rescue facility and a boat launch, and the availability to adjacent land. The cons noted were lack of city water, city sewer, internet connectivity, and natural gas.

“There would be a public entrance and workstations for deputies, space for investigators, a temporary holding facility, evidence storage and intake, and it would fit comfortably on this site,” he said. “The site in Onamia is similar in many ways and is on the north side of the county.”

“The creamery location was identified by law enforcement and was on hold for the City of Onamia,” said county administrator Pat Oman. “The board chose to have the county put a hold on it.”

Johnson listed the pros and cons of the Onamia site. The pros for this site included access to the facility from Milaca and the east and west sides of Mille Lacs Lake, the back road options to avoid traffic of State Hwy. 169, and the potential to collaborate with the city police department in Onamia. Additionally, the site has access to existing city sewer, water and high speed internet and would give the area a stronger police presence.

He said the triangular shape of the property poses a challenge with parking, but the DNR owns adjacent property and may consider selling. “If we could square the site off (with the purchase of DNR owned land), the building would fit better,” Johnson added. “The main goal is to have good street presence. Taking down the creamery site and have a building that the community is proud of and well received.”

“We wanted to look at a way to close down some other facilities that are inconveniently located or are an older facility,” he said.

The design goals for the creamery site include having a good street presence, a clear public entry, room for parking and landscaping, a drive-through garage, a comfortable turning radius, good office and garage integration, a service side on the back, and access to the existing adjacent salt shed.

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