Renovations are underway at the former Morton County jail, a construction project that will relieve crowding for law enforcement officers in Mandan.
The price tag to repurpose the former jail has doubled since the project was in planning stages after some unanticipated costs, including asbestos discovered in the insulation, said Bruce Strinden, chairman of the Morton County Commission.
The Morton Mandan Law Enforcement Center renovation is now estimated to cost just under $3.5 million, up from early estimates of up to $1.5 million, Strinden told the Bismarck Tribune.
Most of the work is on the second floor, which is no longer used as a jail now that Morton County houses inmates in the combined Burleigh Morton County Detention Center in Bismarck.
But workers also will have to remove the ceilings from the main floor and basement and replace the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, plumbing and electrical work in the 33-year-old building, costs that weren't initially anticipated.
"Those things pushed the price up," Strinden said.
Asbestos remediation also will be required on the second floor, where it was confirmed in insulation in the outer walls and some in the ceiling, he said.
Repurposing the Morton County and Burleigh County jails was funded through the half-cent sales tax voters approved for the Burleigh Morton County Detention Center. The sales tax expires after the construction costs have been covered.
Strinden said the increased cost for Morton County means the sales tax is projected to stay on about 11 months longer.
"It's a little bit of a guess because it's based on sales tax collections," he said. "So you really don't know exactly."
The main benefit of the project is providing more office space for the Morton County Sheriff's Office and the Mandan Police Department, which have grown significantly since the facility was built in 1986.
"They actually have a large enough staff where those people are almost sitting on top of each other," Strinden said.
For the Morton County Sheriff's Office, two lieutenants will no longer have to be located in the basement, said spokeswoman Maxine Herr.
The second floor also will have a remodeled dispatch area and conference rooms for both departments.
Some holding cells will continue to be used for defendants who are in custody at the Burleigh Morton County Detention Center and have court hearings in Morton County.
A roof is being added to the area of the jail formerly used as outdoor recreation space for inmates and that space will be converted to storage for equipment and supplies.
Additional space in the basement will be used for evidence storage.
"We're desperate for storage space and space for people," Strinden said.
The reception area of the Law Enforcement Center also will be remodeled.
Strinden estimates the construction project will be complete in January, as long as no unexpected issues arise.
Even though the cost has increased, county officials are limiting the renovation to things that have to be replaced, Strinden said.
"There were some things that we really wanted to put in here, but we trimmed that back because it was going to be very expensive," he said.
Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com
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