Crow Wing County: Former jail finding new purpose at sheriff's office
The basement that once housed Crow Wing County's prisoners is transforming into a more spacious and technologically advanced 911 dispatch center. Home to the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office, the 40-year-old law enforcement center on the county ...
The basement that once housed Crow Wing County's prisoners is transforming into a more spacious and technologically advanced 911 dispatch center.
Home to the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office, the 40-year-old law enforcement center on the county campus is the subject of an $800,000 remodeling project. The two-phase project began last month and is the main capital improvement project the county is pursuing this year and next. Reid Thiesse, facilities manager, said the project is meant to improve the functionality of the office and reuse space previously "mothballed."
"What we decided to do was to repurpose the existing building, remove the old cells and create a new office environment for the sheriff's office," Thiesse said in an interview in his office. "The bones of the building are just fine. It's metal studs and metal columns and concrete.
We need to upgrade the heating system, the cooling, the electrical system, and the office space itself. Obviously it's an old jail, and it was used 24/7 for almost 30 years."
Thiesse and some of the top brass of the sheriff's office led a tour of the in-progress construction Tuesday for county commissioners. Once shared with the Brainerd Police Department, the law enforcement center is getting a new shine and a new name-simply the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office.
Below a large plywood cutout of the state of Minnesota adorned with the sheriff's office seal, a stairwell descends to what was once the Crow Wing County Jail. Much of the original jail remains intact-narrow hallways between steel walls and doors, interview rooms, empty cells and spaces now used for storage or as ad-hoc server rooms. One section, which once contained 12 cells holding two people each and a larger holding area, is now cavernous in comparison to the maze-like passages leading to it.
A construction worker lay flat on a section of sand where flooring once was as commissioners Paul Koering, Doug Houge and Rosemary Franzen walked in. Capt. Scott Goddard, Lt. Dave Fischer and Thiesse took turns describing the vision for the room, which was on its way to becoming the new office space for emergency dispatchers. In addition to answering 911 calls, the crew is tasked with providing on-scene communications for 11 law enforcement agencies, 13 fire departments, three ambulance services and 16 first-response teams. In 2016, the county's dispatchers received and created 52,392 calls for service.
In addition to a NASA-style command center with displays of traffic and security cameras, a real-time county map of patrol deputy locations and several other monitors, the space will make room for an expanse of computer servers advancing technology demands. On the horizon is incorporating capabilities to send and receive dispatch-related text messages and more advanced mapping technologies.
Opening up the room for reconstruction was a more demanding task for contractors than expected, a testament to the strength of the steel forming the building's interior. The walls thwarted one grinder and required a more heavy-duty tool up to the task.
"At first they came with angle grinders and they tried cutting all these welds. Well, the first day, they went through like 100 grinder blades," Fischer said as he patted one of the remaining walls. "They got like two panels down. So the next day they sent one of their guys to Menards and told them to buy every grinder blade they had. And then they went through another 100. So they kind of got into a little couple-day delay, until they got their plasma cutter. ... So once they got the plasma cutter going, then they made some hay."
The first phase of reconstruction is expected to be complete by November, with the second phase in the planning process for the end of 2018 and beginning of 2019. The second phase includes finishing the remodeling project throughout the remainder of the basement and the first floor, updating locker rooms and training facilities for the law enforcement officers and converting some spaces into meeting rooms for groups like TRIAD, a group focused on reducing criminal victimization of senior citizens.
Much of the work includes updating the building to a modern look and feel-replacing four-decades-old ceiling tiles, for instance, and upgrading lighting to more energy-efficient LEDs. Once finished, Thiesse said the facility would more closely align with the needs of a modern sheriff's office patrolling more than 1,000 square miles of territory.
"As they're advancing their technology ... there will be more room, and more capabilities for the coming technologies that are down the road for them," Thiesse said.