Worsening farm economy good reason to stop justice center plans, citizens say

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By Reed Anfinson
Swift County Monitor-News

The brakes are on the proposed $17.5 million Swift County Justice Center and a county board-appointed citizens committee to study the county building needs just conducted its first meeting. Still, the county board is hearing from citizens that they need to scrap the entire idea.

The proposed two-story 38,000 square foot building on the west side of the courthouse would house a new Swift County Sheriff’s Office, an expanded jail, human services, 6W Community Corrections, the county attorney’s office and Restorative Practices.

Back in February, the county board voted 3-2 to proceed with a $162,000 study of a justice center schematic design to get a more detailed design and cost for the project. Commissioners Hendrickx, District 1-Appleton, Eric Rudningen, District 5-Kerkhoven and Pete Peterson, District 3-south Benson and Torning Township, had voted to proceed with the study. Commissioners Ed Pederson, District 2-north Benson and Benson Township, and Joe Fox, District 4-Hegbert Township, voted against the study.

However, at its May 7 meeting commissioners voted to create a Community Perspective Committee with two representatives of each of the five commission districts to look into the background behind the need for the justice center expressed by Peterson, Hendrickx and Rudningen.
At their April 16 meeting, commissioners voted unanimously to put the justice study on hold for a couple months.

The Community Perspectives Committee had its first meeting Monday, May 20. “It was nice to see all 10 people who indicated they were interested all here,” Chair Hendrickx said at the county board’s May 21 meeting. “We will see where it goes.” The group will now start going through the county’s facilities one by one and meet with each department head.

Commissioner Peterson said he would like to see the citizens committee get more time for its study. The county board has a building committee made of commissioners and county staff that have been studying county building needs. He wants that committee to agree to give more than two months to the citizens committee to study building needs.

“The county is in different circumstances today than it was at the time the committee was created,” Hendrickx agreed. “It was indicated to the committee that it might be a longer process than originally indicated.”

When the committee was created in early May area farmers were looking forward to getting started with their spring push to get crops planted. But an unusually wet April followed by a persistently wet May has farmers facing one of the worst spring planting seasons in recent memory. Tens of thousands of acres of land is too wet to plant. Seed that was put in the ground early may not germinate due to cold, wet conditions...

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