A new public works building and new law enforcement facility have been subjects of discussion at the Mille Lacs County Board work session meetings, most recently at the Sept. 3 meeting.
Officials from Contegrity Group (CGI), a construction management company, and Vetter Johnson Architects were at the work session to present a revised, preliminary plan for the two new facilities.
Pete Filippi, from CGI, said to the board, “You essentially have a building that has outlived its life as a public works building. Those kinds of metal buildings aren’t meant to last over 40 years, and you’ve made it go over 40 now. We presented a number of plans and diagrams … and gleaned from staff what they like.”
A potential site under consideration for the public works building is in Pease, and the most favorable site for the new North Law Enforcement Center is the Onamia Creamery site which was obtained per state statute by the county through tax forfeiture.
With the existing public works building in its Milaca location, there would be extensive site work, said Filippi. “On the new site (in Pease), we did pick up utilities. We are at about $10.5 million for the new site and $10 million for the existing (public works) site,” he said. When asked about the limitations of working with the existing site, county administrator Pat Oman state that there is a challenge to meeting all the public works responsibilities while demolishing a building and building a new public works building on the existing site.
The estimate for the North Law Enforcement Center is $4.9 million.
Filippi estimated construction of the new public works building starting in April or May of 2020 if the county financed the project using a general obligation bond. If the county chose to fund the project via sales tax, a referendum would be required and would possibly push the project out to June of 2021 with a likely construction inflation cost of 4 percent, equaling an approximate $420,000 in additional expense. The same can be said for the construction of the Northern Law Enforcement Center, and an approximate $200,000 is expected if financing comes through sales tax.
Sheriff Don Lorge was asked about the necessity of a Northern Law Enforcement Building. He responded, “Something has to be done, and we can’t keep kicking the can down the road. What we’re working with up there is very old and isn’t going to be workable.”
Mille Lacs County Chief Deputy Kent Larson added, “The building is beyond its life cycle, and it’s tough to be housing the amount of people we are. That facility is an embarrassment to the county. It was meant to be just a search and rescue facility, and we’ve used it as an office. Our buildings really have depreciated.”
Mille Lacs County Administrator Oman asked Sheriff Lorge if he thought there would be any changes with the Onamia City Police. Lorge responded saying that he couldn’t “speculate a whole lot” but that there have been some talks.
Lorge added that he felt the creamery location would be the best fit with its location in the City of Onamia being a positive.