Carlton County receives $10 million for justice center

The county asked for $25 million from the Minnesota Legislature, but officials say $10 million from the state is "outstanding."

File: Carlton County Jail aerial
The Carlton County Courthouse (left) and jail in Carlton. Steve Kuchera / 2019 file / Pine Journal

CARLTON — Funding for the Carlton County Justice Center project in the Minnesota Legislature's bonding bill fell short of what officials original asked, but County Coordinator Dennis Genereau said the amount received will "make a huge difference" to the project.

"We originally asked for $22.5 million based on what we felt could be possibly funded," Genereau said. "We didn't necessarily expect to get the $22 million, but it was what we asked for because we felt it was a worthy cause. But we were very happy to get the $10 million. That's outstanding."

Two bills were introduced in the House and Senate asking for $25 million this spring. The county upped its ask after its request in last session's omnibus bill failed to pass.

Genereau said the county's original $22.5 million ask was based on the project's larger benefits to the region and to the state. He cited the program focusing on female offenders set to be part of the center as well as space for the Minnesota court system.

"We felt, based on the engineer's estimate of the costs of those two portions in the construction that it was a fair ask," Genereau said. "And the $10 million is going to make a huge difference for us as far as paying for that facility and those portions of the facility.


State Sen. Jason Rarick, R-Pine City, highlighted the project in a statement released about the work accomplished during the session.

"Another important project is the Carlton County Female Offender and Judicial Facilities, which will receive a grant to construct, furnish and equip a new regional center within the Carlton County Justice Center," he said. "Not only will this expansion make our community safer, but it will also help with creating new jobs."

Planning for the project began in 2020, when the county received a letter from the Minnesota Department of Corrections setting a sunset date for its current jail facility. The letter required the county to move out of the facility by July 2023 due to antiquated plumbing, lack of natural light, security and overall poor construction. The sunset date was recently extended to July 2024 with possible future extensions due to the construction of the new facility. Construction on the project began in August 2022.

The project has a guaranteed maximum price of $65.8 million along with an additional $9 million in soft costs. A local option sales tax approved in November will allow the county to collect and finance $60 million for the project.

Genereau said the county previously received $2 million from the state for planning the facility and received an estimated $3.1 million for bond premiums. With $10 million from the bonding bill, the project is just about covered.

"It's a very good number," Genereau said. "Of course, we still have to issue more bonds and pay those off as we go and find out how much the sales tax generates and whether that's more or less than what we need to pay off those bonds every year. So that's yet to come."

Teri Cadeau is a general assignment and neighborhood reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. Originally from the Iron Range, Cadeau has worked for several community newspapers in the Duluth area for eight years including: The Duluth Budgeteer News, Western Weekly, Weekly Observer, Lake County News-Chronicle and occasionally, the Cloquet Pine Journal. When not working, she's an avid reader and crafter.
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