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home : news : news July 27, 2016

1/16/2014 3:21:00 PM
Officials are split on re-use of old medical campus

by DENISE MARTIN At this point in time there seem to be two police commissioners in favor of delving deeper into moving Lakes Area Police operations to the Fairview Clinic campus in Chisago City, while two police commissioners lack enthusiasm for the project. The four-member Lakes Area Police Commission met January 8; and the only topic on the agenda was whether to continue discussions with Fairview to remodel empty medical services building space into police headquarters. Two commissioners toured the site Jan. 8; but dozens of digital photos of the building condition and interior remodeling potential/hurdles were viewed by all four members at that evening’s commission meeting.

Lindstrom Council member Curt Flug stated that the medical campus was built with public money, developed with tax dollars as Chisago Lakes Hospital. The special taxing district has long been inactive. Flug would like to see the space utilized again for public good. Lindstrom Mayor Keith Carlson added that Fairview officials are very willing to negotiate lease terms and make available whatever square footage the commission might want. He observed that Fairview has a reputation for working with other cities and public bodies to re-use obsolete medical facilities. Or, the commission might opt to negotiate the purchase of all, or a portion of, the empty wing to the south of the functioning clinic facility. (See aerial graphic.) Chisago City’s police commission members saw more shortcomings than promise, with the concept, however. Mayor Bob Gustafson said the amount of money he envisions to make the space workable is not cost-effective-- especially if the police department doesn’t own the site. “I don’t see this panning out,” he declared.

Chisago City Council member Joe Sroga asked about vehicle storage and secure offender transport. He wondered if somebody could assess the structure and report on what needs to happen so it could become useful space. Deputy Chief Bill Schlumbohm asked commissioners what timeframe they envision for this site serving the department, is this to be a permanent or temporary solution? Commissioners were generally of the opinion that they’d need to see some costs first for how this wing could be retro-fitted and then they could weigh the long term versus short term issues. But there wasn’t a consensus on moving forward. Mayor Carlson said Fairview is a willing partner and it would be a mistake to not at least talk some more. Flug commented Fairview could be approached about adding a garage and enhancing access security, saying “We don’t know if we don’t ask.” The police chief and deputy chief said they could do a basic analysis on the amount of square footage and special amenities law enforcement operations require.

Chief Kevin Stenson warned, “It would be a rough guess, keep in mind we are not architects.” Meanwhile-- Chisago City is in the process of concluding interviewing for finalists from a list of design firms interested in working up plans for a new Chisago City Fire Hall. This review of Lakes Area Police space needs heated-up when the police were contacted by firefighters to see if Lakes Area might also be incorporated into the fire hall, creating a public safety building. The architectural finalists should be announced soon. Chisago City Administrator John Pechman said part of the design assignment could include law enforcement needs as part of the process. But, to select a firm it would be nice if the fire hall interview committee knew whether police space is part of the project. Pechman said there is no specific deadline for this new fire hall. Sroga stressed, “We are headed down that road.”

Deputy Chief Schlumbohm advised the group he hasn’t heard anything official from firefighters about coming in on the public safety building since the initial contact was made. He also reminded the four men they passed a motion last month directing that city councils should hear details about the Fairview and fire hall prospects and other details on problems with existing police department operations. Is this still what the commissioners desire, Schlumbohm wondered? Lindstrom had already scheduled the matter for its January 16 council agenda and there will be general discussion. The police commissioners agreed that Chisago City likely won’t address this until at least February.

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