Architecture firm recommends expansion of jail in Grand Forks County

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A video visitation station sits empty in a general population jail pod on Wednesday, July 22, 2015, at the Grand Forks County Jail in Grand Forks, ND. (Logan Werlinger/Grand Forks Herald)

The Grand Forks County Commission heard from David Bostwick of HDR Architecture, a firm in Chicago hired to conduct a needs analysis of the Grand Forks County Correctional Facility. Bostwick's group recommended expanding the jail by adding 130 beds, as the jail is over its functional capacity of 160 beds -- though not yet at maximum capacity.

The county is using the jail to house inmates from outside its jurisdiction, creating a revenue stream to help offset the cost of its operation. According to Bostwick's study, in 2028, the jail will have no space to "rent" to others, which includes the U.S. Marshal's office, drying up the revenue stream and placing the full cost of the jail on the county. The commission has yet to take action on the issue. The consultant's proposal was estimated to cost from $20 million to $25 million.

In other correctional center news, administrator Bret Burkholderl sought permission to add a clerical staff member to the jail system to free up time for nurses to conduct their duties. This is due to the retiring of a long-time public health staffer, creating a shortage at the jail. The addition of a clerical staff member would free nurses from medical data entry. The commission voted to allow Burkholder to add a clerical staff member.

In other action taken by the commission, Sheriff Andy Schneider asked the commission to open sealed bids received by his office to price new vehicles for the department. The sheriff's department is looking to add vehicles to its fleet next year. The lowest bid for a Chevrolet Tahoe, was from a dealership in Bismarck, Puklich Chevrolet, coming in at just over $36,000 per vehicle.

The county commission also voted to allow the creation of a previously reported syringe exchange program. The program will allow people to exchange their used syringes for new ones at the public health department, in an effort to reduce the spread of hepatitis, which has increased in Grand Forks County. The program will use federal money and a private grant and will not cost the county anything. The commission voted to allow the creation of the program, following in the steps of the Grand Forks City Council, which voted in favor of the syringe exchange program 5-2.


Finally, Nick West, the county engineer, reported that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be refunding a large amount of money to the county and townships, to the tune of more than $840,000. Townships will be able to get about $440,000, with the remainder going to the county. The money is from repairs the entities had to make to township and county roads after flooding from this spring. This money is a reimbursement for that expenditure.

The commission also voted to to approve its 2020 budget.

Adam Kurtz is the community editor for the Grand Forks Herald. He covers higher education and other topics in Grand Forks County and the city.

Kurtz joined the Herald in July 2019. He covered business and county government topics before covering higher education and some military topics.

Tips and story ideas are welcome. Get in touch with him at, or DM at @ByAdamKurtz.

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