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The county is researching the potential for a ground-mounted solar array on 5 acres directly east of the new Public Safety Center. The array would help power the safety center, but would not be tied to the grid.
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The Rice County Sheriff’s Office operates two county jail facilities, a 35-bed linear-style main jail facility which includes a mixture of minimum, medium, maximum and special housing units along with dormitory style housing. This facility manages both male and female inmates. The main jail facility was built in 1972 with a total of 30 beds to serve the county and is located in the upper floors of the Law Enforcement Center.
In the late 1990s, six additional beds were added, bringing the total beds to 36 (the MN DOC authorized capacity is listed as 35 though its operating capacity is 80% of that total). In 2011, the county procured a vacated Army Reserve site on Hwy. 60 in Faribault and moved 32 inmates to be housed in the annex facility.
The second facility is the Minimum-Security Jail Annex facility which is licensed to house 36 individuals; however, it currently has only 32 beds. The Annex, built in 1976, is also linear in design and primarily used to house work release inmates and minimum custody individuals. The Annex was closed in spring 2022 due to concerns with COVID-19.
Rice County's jail admissions increased over the 11-year period (2009-19) a total of 3.35% and at an annual rate of 0.43%. Male admissions decreased overall -3.84 percent (annually at -0.27%) and females increased 36.33% (annually at 3.74 percent).
• The overall average daily population decreased -4.59% between 2009 and 2019; at a rate of -0.28%. Amongst these statistics, the male ADP decreased a total of -10.58% (at a rate of -0.91 percent) and the female ADP increased a total of 69.07%; at a rate of 8.61% annually.
• The average length of stay (ALOS) for all the overall population is averaged at 11 days between 2009 and 2019, which is well below the national average of 25 days. Males typically stay an average of 12 days and females stay an average of five days.
• The jail maintains an average of 57% of the MN DOC determined capacity of 71 beds between 2009 and 2019.
• The jail admission’s largest age groups (25 to 54 years of age – the “at risk age group”) matches the community’s largest age groups, which is indicative of the potential for an increase in admissions.
• The limited space of the current jail facilities limits the ability of staff to safely separate individuals who require separation by local classification policies, PREA standards and best correctional practices.
• The mental health inmate population has seen significant quarterly increases since 2014.
• The female population, while still small in numbers (less than 6 on average), are increasing at significant rates. As this population increases, the need for more separation space to adequately classify and properly house them is necessary.
Minnesota Department of Corrections inspections have identified the need for additional housing space in the Rice County Jail to meet inmate classification demands. Classifications include male/female, security risk and medical/mental health needs.
DOC inspections have also identified the need for additional program and leisure time activity space. Without additional space to meet these needs, the DOC has said it will limit the length of time inmates can be held to 90 days.
The Community Corrections (probation) Department is current located in the historic portion of the Law Enforcement Center, but needs more space, especially for group meetings it often hosts. Once the new Public Safety Center is complete, current plans call for some modest upgrades (including energy-efficient lighting) will be done to what is now Sheriff's Office space so it can be used for Community Corrections. The Parks and Facilities Department is also expected to move into a portion of the building's lower level where it can have its offices, and house vehicles and other equipment.
The Board of Commissioners approved the sale of $48.86 million in general obligations bonds to finance the Public Safety Center at its July 19, 2022 meeting. The 30-year bonds carry a very favorable 3.78% interest rate. The county received a AAA credit rating from S&P Global Ratings due, in part, to a credit enhancement it received from the state of Minnesota.
The board asked the Minnesota Legislature to allow it seek voter approval for a countywide sales tax that would help repay the bonds. The board endorsed a .375% tax, noting that tax rate will likely bring in a bit more than it needs to repay the anticipated 30-year bond issue, letting the county to repay the debt more quickly.
While the Legislature ended its regular 2022 session without taking up the measure, it could still be part of a special session package. If the Legislature approves, the question will be placed on the November 2022 ballot.
The Board of Commissioners on Feb. 22, 2022 approved a contract to complete engineering for new sections of two existing roads: a stretch of First Avenue will run north-south just west of the new safety center and connect to Ames Trail, and the westernmost segment of the planned East View Drive that will run from the roundabout to a dead end in front of the safety center.
Both sections of roadway will be built to city of Faribault design standards. When complete, they will be turned over to the city as public roads. Funding to pay for construction will come from the county's existing highway budget.
Faribault city leaders have discussed extending East View Drive from Hwy. 3 to the existing segment off 14th Street NE, to create a major east-west connector on the city’s north side.
In that scenario, the county would have spent money on a partnership with Steele County, possibly on upgrades its own April 2021 report said the Owatonna detention center needed, and continued to incur costs, including personnel, for its Main Jail downtown and Jail Annex on Hwy. 60.