Politicians don’t usually admit to being squeamish but one has to give Crow Wing County Commissioner Rachel Reabe Nystrom points for candor at the Aug. 28 board meeting when she described the board’s reaction to the estimated price tags for either building a new Law Enforcement Center (LEC) or remodeling the existing one.
Those estimated price tags were $15.3 million for a new building and $13.2 million for remodeling. The remodeling estimate, commissioners were told, could go as high as $15 million depending on the exterior work.
Nystrom also stated what the other four commissioners were possibly thinking when she noted that predecessors of the current board were voted out of office after they voted in 2004 to proceed with a building project that exceeded $56 million. That action, which this newspaper supported editorially, included a new judicial center, jail and community services building. The investment, as painful as it was, took advantage of a favorable bond market and gave the county lasting structures that will serve citizens for years.
Now, faced with a smaller project, the board must choose between remodeling or building a new law enforcement center, at what is likely to be roughly the same price.
There’s no sense trying to save a few nickels and dimes if the end result is an inferior structure that won’t serve the growing needs of law enforcement. If the final estimates are truly about equal it makes much more sense to build a new LEC. The board should bite the bullet and build a new LEC. Mike O’Rourke