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Cass County Jail plan moves ahead

Construction work on a $4.3 million Cass County Jail expansion could begin this fall after the architect received approval Monday to finish the plans.

Construction work on a $4.3 million Cass County Jail expansion could begin this fall after the architect received approval Monday to finish the plans.

County commissioners agreed to have Foss Associates complete the construction documents, which could be ready for bidding by mid-July, said architect Rick Hoganson.

The new Cass County Jail opened in fall 2002 with 256 beds. Expansion plans call for two 48-bed housing pods and several optional upgrades, such as metal countertops, irrigation work and a device to conserve power.

Cass County voters approved a half-cent sales tax in 1999 to raise $24 million for the jail, with a maximum tax period of four years. The tax was lifted after 3½ years when it raised the money in less time than expected.

When the new jail was built, commissioners hoped to get at least five years out of the building before the need to expand, said Commissioner Scott Wagner.


If construction on the expansion begins in September, the addition could be ready for inmates by Jan. 1, 2007, Hoganson said.

Plans may not move that fast, however. Costs for materials and heating the construction work throughout the winter could make the bids more expensive than commissioners would like, Hoganson said. If that happens, the commissioners might delay awarding the contract and take bids again six months later.

Such a delay would push back the opening of the new addition for another four to five months, Hoganson said.

The county has $5.2 million reserved for the jail project, said County Auditor Mike Montplaisir. If the price tag stays under that amount, no public vote is necessary.

In other action at Monday's meeting, commissioners voted to delay action on a proposed gravel parking lot for canoeists on Forrest River Road south of Fargo.

Robert Backman, executive director of River Keepers, said his group has a $1,500 state grant to pay for the project, which would provide room for about half a dozen vehicles.

The commission voted to first gather input from the Fargo Parks District to form a land use policy for area. The spot has been the subject of requests for various uses, including bow hunting, Wagner said.

In the consent agenda, commissioners voted to ask the North Dakota Insurance Reserve Fund how much it cost to represent Cass County in its trial against citizen John Strand. The lawsuit centered on the demolition of the county's old jail and a counterclaim filed by the county.


The reserve fund is an optional insurance provider for political subdivisions in the state.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Forster at (701) 241-5538

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