New Ottertail 'cop shop'
"The needs that we have can be better met by working out of the center of the county," explained Operations Lieutenant Mike Boen, who has an office at the new Sheriff's Operations Center in the city of Ottertail.
Boen served as one of the facility's tour guides on September 13, when the center hosted an open house for the public. Visitors were ushered through administrative sections, evidence collecting areas, and interrogation rooms during their tours of the operations center.
In a FAQ sheet given to visitors touring the complex, an explanation is given for why the operations center wasn't built in Fergus Falls, where the rest of the Sheriff's Office operations are conducted.
When the Otter Tail County Sheriff's Office began to outgrow the courthouse building in Fergus Falls, building an annex was found to be "a preferable alternative to moving the entire facility, including the jail and courts, which would have been more expensive and left the existing building unused."
The projected new growth in Ottertail is also cited as a reason for the county's decision to build the office in the centrally-located city. Additionally, there are more miles of roads, houses, and businesses, and 30 percent more calls for service within a 20-mile radius of Ottertail city.
Functions which will now be operating out of the Ottertail office will include the Patrol, Water Patrol, and Investigation divisions. This will include Narcotics investigators. A training center, intoxilyzer, holding area, interview rooms, and evidence processing are also housed in the new building.
As curious citizens were ushered through the building on Sept. 13, Deputy Sheriff Keith Van Dyke showed the public exactly how the new building is helping the Sheriff's Office with evidence collection. A large open room in the facility now gives the department a spacious and temperature-controlled area to process vehicles involved in criminal activity and accident investigations.
Van Dyke also has an office he works out of at the new Ottertail Operations Center. He explained how the opening of the new facility has dramatically cut back on the drive he used to make each day to work in Fergus Falls. With his house in New York Mills, the Ottertail location saves hours of drive time each week.
"We can save a lot of time and tax dollars by having a building like this," Van Dyke informed one of the day's tour groups. He also noted that the facility is a benefit to other counties, which are now starting to utilize some of the facilities housed in the Ottertail Operations Center.
"We've never had a really good way of getting fingerprints off of paper," Van Dyke gives as an example. With more space and modern equipment, the new facility allows for this type of complicated evidence collection. An air chamber in one of the evidence processing rooms makes it possible to use chemical solutions to uncover evidence such as fingerprints.
Another major benefit of the new operations center is that it gives the department a training center in Otter Tail County. Prior to the completion of the Ottertail center, officers had to travel to the metro area in order to receive training. This resulted in the loss of time and money.
With a training facility in Ottertail, other surrounding counties will also benefit from having a training facility in closer proximity. According to Boen, six counties are already involved in the training consortium in Otter Tail County.
The total cost for the Ottertail Operations Center was approximately 4.5 million dollars. With property acquisition far less expensive in Ottertail than Fergus Falls, the county found it cost effective to build the new site. The Ottertail center is set on a 10-acre lot, which gives the county the opportunity to expand the building if the future necessitates such a move.
The building itself has the distinction of being the first Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certified structure in Otter Tail County. This means that the site and the construction of the building are environmentally earth friendly.
The Ottertail Operations Center is connected to the Fergus Falls-based Sheriff's Office via phone and data, allowing for information to be easily shared between the two locations. The Sheriff's Office Administration, Records, Dispatch, Court Security, Civil Process, and Detention will remain at the main office in Fergus Falls.
Emergency Operations Center:
One of the features in the new Ottertail Sheriff's facility is an Emergency Operations Center (E.O.C.) The E.O.C. is an area specifically designed to be used to manage resources during emergency situations such as tornados.
It is also used during major crime investigations such as a missing or abducted person, in which case it would be necessary to provide working space for additional resources.
The training room in the Sheriff's Operations Center was designed to convert to an E.O.C. in these situations. This area also contains a backup dispatch room in the event of a fire or other event disabling the main dispatch center.
This area was built to withstand tornados and has an emergency backup power source. It also includes a computer room that can back up the data of the entire county.