Clay County preparing offers for buyouts near courthouse
MOORHEAD - The county board here is developing offers to extend to owners of a handful of homes it hopes to buy near the Clay County Courthouse as part of a proposed jail expansion.
MOORHEAD – The county board here is developing offers to extend to owners of a handful of homes it hopes to buy near the Clay County Courthouse as part of a proposed jail expansion.
Commissioners are still exploring multiple options for a new jail and new law enforcement center, but the preference is to build on the county's campus centered around the courthouse at 807 11th St. N.
In a closed-door meeting last week, the Clay County Commission met to discuss the possible home buyouts.
County Administrator Brian Berg said that during the closed session, board members discussed how to deal with owners who are willing to sell their property, but he couldn't discuss specific details.
The exemption to state open meeting law cited in closing the meeting allows public bodies to meet privately to consider and develop offers and counteroffers for buying property.
Berg said the county would like to buy at least six homes just north of the existing law enforcement center.
"If we get umpteenth number of properties in a row that we can buy, we're probably going to very seriously consider that," Berg said.
Clay County Commissioners Grant Weyland, Kevin Campbell and Jenny Mongeau did not return calls for comment regarding the executive session.
Purchasing the property would give the county room for the additional parking it would need for the jail and law enforcement center project.
County officials have said property acquisition would be voluntary, but if the county can't get the land it needs, other locations for the law enforcement center would be explored.
"We want the jail on campus and we've realized we can't build the law enforcement center on this campus as well because we just don't have the capacity" unless the county board decides to build a parking ramp, Berg said.
"We're not really big on the parking ramp anymore because of the cost," he said.
Berg said the board prefers to keep the law enforcement center and jail located near each other.
The architecture firm Klein-McCarthy of St. Louis Park, Minn., is working on plans for the law enforcement center and jail designs, which should be ready in three months, Berg said.
The jail and law enforcement center are expected to cost between $25 million and $30 million to build.
Clay County has been studying a new jail for more than a decade, citing inmate overcrowding and other infrastructure issues that have drawn scrutiny from Minnesota Department of Corrections inspectors.
Officials have said they may seek a sales tax to help pay for the project, which would require the approval of both state lawmakers and local voters.