PEQUOT LAKES -- Six area counties expect to adopt a joint powers agreement for regional adult detention services by July.
While representatives of participating counties had hoped a year ago they might be cooperatively building or remodeling a regional jail facility, Wednesday they agreed in principle to share their existing local facilities.
Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd and Wadena county commissioners and sheriff representatives met Wednesday in Pequot Lakes to discuss pursuing a regional operations concept regardless of whether a joint facility exists.
Cass County Detention Center cannot hold all the local inmates there. Morrison County's local facility is only two-thirds filled.
By operating as a regional organization, these counties hope to exchange information about space and inmate availability more regularly, so jail space can be used to the maximum among member counties.
Ultimately, operating as a regional detention organization could show the Legislature these counties are committed enough to a regional concept that state funds should be added to the counties' money to help pay for a regional facility.
Aitkin County Administrator Scott Arneson drafted a sample agreement each county will review with input from county attorneys before signing in July.
The regional operation will be directed by a board comprised of two commissioners from each county. Sheriffs will form an advisory board to that joint powers board.
Commissioners on the joint powers board will be responsible for entering into agreements to accept gifts, grants, loans, manage any property the regional organization shall obtain and approve disbursing funds to operate the system.
The board will contract with a county auditor in one member county for financial services.
Any member county can withdraw at any time by giving 60 days notice.
Crow Wing County Administrator Peter Herlofsky Jr. said a regional organization will see trends developing by more regularly sharing information.
The only investment now, he said, will be time and effort.
Gary Waller, consultant to this regional group of counties, conducted a feasibility study for a regional facility under a $100,000 state grant and $50,000 contribution from member counties last year.
He suggested Wednesday that courts operating in member counties also be asked to maximize the use of interactive television and consider hearing routine cases for inmates in counties where they are held rather than requiring inmates to be transported back to the county where charges are filed.
This could save considerably on transportation costs, he said.
Member counties also could fund an inter-county inmate transportation system, he said. By improving communications, member counties can transport inmates from more than one county in one vehicle when officers travel through more than one county, he said.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.