Crow Wing County Attorney Don Ryan wisely raised a caution flag at a recent discussion of a regional jail that might one day be located at the Brainerd Regional Human Services Center.
The idea of sharing expensive facilities such as jails is an excellent example of governmental cooperation. It's the type of regional thinking governments are going to have to implement in the future. Some of the elected officials in the planning process consider the regional jail to almost be a done deal, Ryan said.
The county attorney wisely pointed out that public discussion on the regional jail has not been as inclusive as it could be. While the idea has been discussed at governmental meetings, a special public meeting with potential neighbors of the jail should be arranged.
The best laid plans of politicians are often derailed at the last minute because public opposition was unexpected or underestimated. Many people don't pay attention to civic affairs until the wheels are well in motion. The best course of action regional jail planners could take is to invite all of the potential critics to a public meeting and air all of the concerns and potential problems that a regional jail could cause for southeast Brainerd.
Participating counties in the planning for the joint jail venture are Todd, Morrison, Wadena, Cass, Aitkin and Crow Wing. But since Crow Wing County is the likely location there is a particular need to obtain citizens' opinions.
A community dialogue is needed on the issue. It might very well produce obstacles or solutions that the elected officials hadn't considered.
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