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New jail getting close, but not ready for prisoners yet

From the Editor's Notebook

June 19, 2009
by Chuck Hunt, Register Editor
The Blue Earth Kiwanis Club chose an interesting location for their meeting and lunch last Tuesday noon – the new Faribault County Law Enforcement Center (LEC).

The group enjoyed a guided tour of the new facility given by County Sheriff Mike Gormley.

Members of the Kiwanis group were impressed with the size of the new building, but they also expressed some surprise over other aspects of it.

For instance, this jail has no bars. The cells are all concrete walls with steel doors.

There are three pods of cells, and if filled to capacity, there would be 60 inmates.

One pod can hold up to 12 female prisoners, something the current Faribault County jail cannot do.

Another pod is for Huber (work-release) inmates. In addition, there are two cells away from the others which can hold juveniles, if necessary.

Sheriff Gormley says juveniles must be kept in an area away from adult prisoners.

The cell area in the new LEC is actually a very small part of the overall building.

The front part of the building (facing east) is the public area. It contains a small courtroom, the sheriff’s office, deputy area, and a receptionist/records office.

The two-story part of the building which faces south contains the cell pods. There is a center command area for the jailer, which looks out over the cell areas.

The dispatchers also have a view of the cell area.

The back part of the building, facing to the west, contains the ‘sally-port’ and booking area. The ‘sally-port’ is a secure drive-in area where prisoners are transported in and out.

Sheriff Gormley told the Kiwanians that the plan was designed to enable the jail portion to operate with a minimum amount of staff.

Basically there will be only two jailers on duty at any one time. One will be in the command center, and the other one is a ‘rover’ of sorts, checking on the prisoners every 30 minutes or so.

There is always a 911 dispatcher on duty, 24-seven. The jailer can also handle dispatching duties if necessary, Gormley said.

There are actually three dispatching set-ups. One main one, one for backup, and one in the jailer command pod area. In case of a big emergency, or a natural disaster, all three could be used, the sheriff said.

The new LEC also has a gym area, library, and kitchen. Laundry is also done on site.

Gormley showed the group where visitors will sit and talk to prisoners via a televised hookup. There also is one room for face-to-face visits.

The general public will not be allowed in the secure jail area, Gormley said.

The small courtroom will be used for initial hearings, Gormley explained, and not for full court cases.

Several members of the Kiwanis Club made references to the water softener problem with the new jail, but Gormley showed them the place in the large utility room where the softener was being installed as the group watched.

Gormley also explained the heating and cooling system for the large building. It has a large water system that is tied to a geo-thermal system.

Gormley said there are 174 wells drilled in the land next to the west side of the building, and water is pumped in and out of the wells and into the building, heating it in winter and cooling it in summer.

The system is so efficient that it will pay for itself in just seven to ten years, the sheriff said.

Gormley also said he hopes the construction will be completed soon. He expects the administration and dispatching will be moving in sometime after July 4th. However, the operation of the jail could be delayed until August, as it must be inspected by the Department of Corrections.

Before prisoners are moved in, the sheriff says members of the public at large will be invited to come and tour the facility.

“After all, it is theirs – they will be paying for it,” he said. “We are very happy with the way it is turning out, and we want people to have a chance to see it. We think they will be impressed.”

Members of the Kiwanis Club sure were.

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