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Cass board considers its five-year capital improvements plan

WALKER — Cass County Board approved an updated five-year capital improvement plan Tuesday.

The county has no debt and has been setting aside annually any year-end surpluses for future capital improvement projects. Chief Financial Officer Larry Wolfe estimates the county capital fund should be about $13.5 million by the end of 2014.

He also has estimated the cost to construct a new jail, the project the current board foresees as the first building the county might build on the former Ah-Gwah-Ching property, would cost $15 million.

This would not include an attached law enforcement center or court facility, he said. It does not consider the cost to staff and operate a larger jail facility.

When all current operating costs are added, he said Cass paid in 2013 $199.81 per inmate per day to operate the current jail in Walker and $91.45 per inmate per day when that cost is averaged with the county’s cost to also board inmates at Crow Wing and Hubbard Counties under agreements costing Cass under $50 per day per inmate.

Crow Wing paid in 2013 $94.73 per day overall per inmate per day to operate its jail, he added.

The 2011 average daily cost per inmate statewide was $127.89 per day, Wolfe said.

Therefore, the current arrangement looks much more cost effective than building a new jail until such time as Cass outgrows capacity in Walker and neighboring jails. Crow Wing currently has an additional jail pod not currently being used, so there is room to expand the current agreement, Wolfe added.

The plan the board approved calls for no new major construction projects within the next five years.

It does outline capital projects to extend the life of the county’s existing buildings and sets a schedule for road construction work.

In 2014 and 2015, the county will replace water valves in jail cells, replace a water line to the courthouse sprinkler system, replace some wall coverings and window blinds, remove an old chimney on the courthouse, replace some air handling dampers/ducts and baseboard heaters, replace some outside lights, repair sidewalks, insulate pipes, repair the roof over a jail entry door, repair/replace a retaining wall, replace some heat/air condition controls, remove a skylight and make some jail repairs to meet state requirements.

Most of these costs would be paid from $100,000 budgeted annually in recent years to improve county government buildings in Walker.

Furnaces have been converted from fuel oil to propane at highway garages throughout the county and lights made more energy efficient. Further improvements at those garages will include better insulation and repairs as needed to metal roofs and siding.

County Engineer David Enblom and Sheriff Tom Burch said their departments need additional cold storage buildings, but the current plan does not indicate potential costs or a timetable to construct storage buildings.

The plan does call for paving the parking lot across the street to the south of the courthouse in Walker in 2014. It currently is gravel. County officials believe maintenance costs could be lowered by paving.

In a related vote, the board approved extending the county’s contract with Mark Beard to serve as construction manager for building improvement projects through March 2015 at a rate of $50 per hour.

Capital expenditures for highway improvements as currently planned include the following:

• 2014 – County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 1 from CSAH 24 to County Road 114, CSAH 7 in Longville from Highway 84 to CSAH 54 and CSAH 49 from Highway 84 to CSAH 56.

• 2015 – CSAH 4 from ¼ corner of section 21 to CSAH 53, CSAH 58 running four miles east from Highway 6, CSAH 65 from CSAH 4 to County Road 158, CSAH 74 from CSAH 65 to CSAH 3 and CSAH 202 in Pine River after the city replaces utilities under it.

• 2016 – CSAH 1 from County Road 107 to CSAH 24, CSAH 17 from CSAH 1 to the county line, CSAH 29 in the city of Lake Shore, CSAH 78 from CSAH 29 to CSAH 77, CSAH 205 in the city of Walker and a bridge replacement on County Road 103.

• 2017 – CSAH 75 from Highway 2 to the county line, CSAH 77 from CSAH 78 to the south Lake Shore city limits and County Road 150 from the county line to CSAH 75.

• 2018 CSAH 12, 38 and 66 from the county line to Highway 371 and County Road 129 from CSAH 7 to Warner Drive (includes bridge).

• 2019 – CSAH 20 and 23 from the county line to Highway 64, CSAH 24 from Highway 64 to CSAH 1 and County Road 136 from CSAH 73 to CSAH 73.

Bridge projects would be contingent upon there being sufficient state bonding money available the years the bridges are scheduled. The County Road 136 project would be contingent upon Leech Lake Band having funding to match county money on that project.

Capital projects scheduled after 2014 can be subject to change.