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OTC commissioners approve issuing bonds for jail upgrades

During a public meeting held March 28, the Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners, gave its approval for the issuance of capital improvement bonds for a county jail remodeling project adjacent to the courthouse, south of downtown Fergus Falls.

The estimated amount of bonds for the jail project is $1.43 million which will be used to build five holding cells and a second elevator. The Otter Tail County Jail is getting an addition to include five holding cells and an elevator.

County Sheriff Brian Schlueter has reiterated to commissioners that the present two holding cells are used to the maximum, and that additional holding cells are badly needed.

Holding cells are often used for the booking process, away from regular jail cells, or for someone who has been arrested and is disruptive. Examples include inebriated individuals.

The elevator is being constructed outside of the detention in order to reach upper levels at the county jail.

“Had elevator construction taken place inside the building, the elevator would not be able to get to two floor levels,” said Jim Stewart, detention center administrator.

Schlueter says the need is great, especially when the present elevator has a mechanical snag and can’t be used to transport inmates.

Sealed proposals for the bonds will be received at the offices of Ehlers & Associates, Inc. and considered by the county board of commissioners at its meeting on May 2.

Standard and Poor’s has maintained Otter Tail County’s rating at AA since 2014. This rating differs from the highest rating (AAA) by only a small degree.

“This means that Otter Tail County, in the estimation of Standard and Poor’s, has a very strong capacity to meet its financial commitments,” said County Auditor-Treasurer Wayne Stein.

Minnesota statutes allow the state’s 87 counties to plan for and finance the "acquisition and betterment of public lands, buildings and other improvements within county boundaries.”

Previously, the five-member county board of commissioners accepted the low bid for construction of five new holding cells and a new elevator at the county jail, also referred to as the detention center in Fergus Falls.

The low bid came from TF Powers based in Fargo. The project got underway in January 2017.