Austin's Law Enforcement Center undergoes remodeling
By Tim Ruzek
Post-Bulletin, Austin MN
Architects received approval Tuesday to study the next phases of Mower County’s overall facilities effort in downtown Austin.
The Mower County Board voted unanimously to pay KKE Architects, a Minneapolis firm, to study options for a $1.6 million remodeling of the Law Enforcement Center (phase two) and the relocation of the county’s health and human services departments (phase three).
Roughly $30,000 is expected to be paid overall for the studies, board member Ray Tucker said. After reviewing the results, he said, the board can decide how to move forward with them.
The studies will give more detailed cost estimates of what can be done for both projects, County Coordinator Craig Oscarson said.
KKE has been the architectural firm used by the county for its justice-center project, known as phase one. With a $30 million budget cap, the justice center will be built on two acquired blocks downtown, with a new jail, courtrooms and court-related offices.
The Austin Police Department, the Mower County Sheriff’s Department and their joint dispatch/records staff will remain at the LEC.
The planned $1.6 million in remodeling, however, is much less than the more than $5 million worth of improvements originally proposed for the LEC, including expanding to the west.
That almost would have doubled the LEC’s square footage, Oscarson said. Law enforcement and dispatch need to prioritize their desired improvements to fit the budget by summer for the county board and Austin City Council, he said.
The city and county will split the remodeling costs.
Mower County has $1 million designated for a health and human services relocation, whether it’s building a facility downtown or remodeling space vacated in the courthouse by functions relocating to the justice center.
Officials hope construction of the justice center will be done by fall 2010.
County leaders are trying to acquire a third block downtown, known as the Robbins block, for potential uses that include a possible site for a new health and human services facility.
Health and human services currently are using leased space at Oak Park Mall in northwest Austin.