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Expansion OK'd for mosquito control program

A major construction project to house the Cass County mosquito control program has been approved, and county officials are continuing talks about expanding the county jail.

A major construction project to house the Cass County mosquito control program has been approved, and county officials are continuing talks about expanding the county jail.

The Cass County Commission on Monday approved an estimated $721,395 expansion to house the county mosquito control program.

In August, commissioners reviewed three options for the mosquito control building and asked for a fourth option that streamlines the amenities and cost of the project.

The option approved on Monday includes a $535,251 addition to the county Highway Department building that would have offices, locker rooms, a combination lunchroom and meeting space and a workspace.

Chemicals would be stored in a separate $186,144 building.

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The commission's approval allows officials to finalize a design and seek bids and financing for the project, said County Engineer Keith Berndt, who helped come up with the final option.

Berndt said the mosquito control program, which has been operating out of an old mobile home, has grown from just a handful of employees a few years ago to more than 40, including seasonal workers.

"It's really become a space issue over the last four years," Berndt said.

Also at Monday's meeting, jail Administrator Glenn Ellingsberg and Cass County Coordinator Bonnie Johnson gave commissioners an update on a proposed expansion of the county jail.

The county's 252-bed facility is 80 percent full, on average, Ellingsberg said. It becomes difficult to manage inmates when jails get that full, he said.

Sheriff's officials want to build a 96-bed addition using some of the $5 million set aside from a now-expired half-cent county sales tax that raised about $24 million to build the jail.

Sheriff's officials would like construct the addition next year, though the space would not be used until needed, Ellingsberg said.

The county jail population has risen faster than anticipated after the jail was built, he said.

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The average daily population of the jail rose from 196 in July to 211 in the first half of October.

Sheriff's officials did not request any action at Monday's meeting but will return for further discussions with commissioners.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Andrea Domaskin at (701) 241-5556

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