A first look at drawings for a new Rice County Public Safety Center is still weeks away, but the planned center now has a home on Faribault’s north side.

The Board of Commissioners on Tuesday agreed to pay $1.65 million for 109.2 acres off Hwy. 3, Faribault Foods’ former spray fields. The vote was unanimous.

A portion of the money will come from the safety center construction budget. The remainder, County Administrator Sara Folsted said, will come from federal American Rescue Plan funds, and the county’s housing and economic development budgets. According to Rice County records, the land is valued at $690,000.

The county never planned to use all the property for the safety center, which will include a new jail and sheriff’s department offices. Some is expected to become an extension of East View Drive, which would run from Bluestem Court on the east side of Faribault, to 30th Street NW and Hwy. 3, where the city plans to build a roundabout in 2023 and a one block section of East View Drive.

The proposed road, a much-needed east/west corridor on the north side of the city, has been discussed by the Faribault City Council

There has also been discussion about using a portion for green space, business and industry, and for housing.

“We’ll be able to accomplish multiple projects withe a single land purchase,” Folsted said.

Commissioners this spring agreed to construct a Public Safety Center at a cost of $49.2 million.

When complete, the safety center will replace the current Law Enforcement Center and main jail, both on Third Street NW in Faribault, and the jail annex on Hwy. 60. The new facility was approved after months of discussion by a county board-appointed task force assembled following the state Department of Corrections’ announcement it was limiting the length of time inmates could be held at the main jail to 90 days. The main jail is used for prisoners with a higher security risk and those with special needs.

The annex, which needs utility work, isn’t structured to accommodate high-risk/high needs inmates.

The cost to renovate the Third Street facility was estimated at about $44 million, pushing the board to build new.

The county is working with an architectural firm to develop plans for the new safety center and will see plans this fall, said Facilities and Grounds Director Matt Verdick. Bids are expected to be let in early 2022 with groundbreaking anticipated next spring.

A county task force is working on plans for the law enforcement center, which will be vacated when construction of the Public Safety Center is complete. It’s also looking at other structures on the block to determine how best to utilize them. At least one, the former Faribault Woolen Mill store, is in poor condition and is expected to be demolished.

Reach Regional Managing Editor Suzanne Rook at 507-333-3134. ©Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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