There was no opposition to Carlton County’s plans for its new justice center project during a joint public information meeting Tuesday, Oct. 11, of the Carlton City Council and the Twin Lakes Township Board of Supervisors.
The meeting was held to gauge public feeling on the city of Carlton annexing property for the proposed jail site. The county owns the land for the project, but it is currently in Twin Lakes Township.
While the current timeline has the justice center’s construction being completed after the county jail sunset date of July 2023, Carlton County Jail Administrator Paul Coughlin said an extension will be granted if the Minnesota Department of Corrections knows the county is working on a new complex.
County officials responded to questions from attendees Tuesday that ranged from how the annexation for the justice center would impact those living nearby to whether construction of the project would be done by local companies.
Here are some of the questions people asked and the responses from local officials:
What would the city of Carlton annex for the project?
The county owns 80 acres of land, but officials only want the city of Carlton to annex 28 acres of that property for the justice center, Coughlin said.
Minnesota state statute requires the county jail to be located within the county seat, which is the city of Carlton, Coughlin said. While the jail has to be located within Carlton city limits, it does not have to be contiguous.
How will the increased traffic in the area be addressed?
Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake said a traffic study has already been conducted on the intersection of County Road 61 and Minnesota Highway 210 by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, who recommended a J-turn intersection.
“The results of the traffic study looked at projected flows too, and it met the threshold to change that intersection to a J-turn,” she said.
Improvement on the intersection would be completed after the justice center is finished in 2024.
Is the county planning on having local contractors bid on the project?
Officials want to make sure bid packages are available for local firms, so the project isn’t so big only two firms in the state could bid on it.
“The (Carlton County) Commissioners have made it very clear to us and the construction managers that they want to use as much local as we can,” Lake said. “There is going to be some restrictions to that, like steel jail cells, (with) not a lot of that being done locally.”
Why is the county planning to raise sales taxes to fund the project?
Coughlin said the local option sales tax is the chosen option for the project so the entire cost doesn’t fall on to property owners.
“Of all sales tax collected in Carlton County, 30% is from non-Carlton County residents,” he said. “So you are spreading the cost across, not just Carlton County residents.”
How will the area be kept safe while adding a jail?
Lake said the area is likely to see “more patrol cars than ever before” with the sheriff’s office moving to the justice center.
“(The current jail) is next to a school in the middle of the town, and we have not had security issues,” she said.
Lake joked that residents may even have more patrol cars than they might want with the new justice center in the area.
How will the city of Carlton be affected with the courthouse moving?
Lake said while the jail and courthouse are moving, Carlton is still the closest place to get food, and even lunch for jurors.
“People who need to eat lunches, I suspect there are still going to be many that will still drive two miles down the road back into the city,” she said.
There will still be a presence in the old courthouse as it will be used for non-judicial business.
The city of Carlton will vote on the annexation and zoning on the property during its city council meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 13.
More information about the proposed justice center can be found on the county's website.