Martin County secures bonding bill money for justice center, still needs additional funds

Updated: Oct. 26, 2020 at 6:37 PM CDT
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FAIRMONT, Minn. (KEYC) — A new Martin County Justice Center is a vision for the future in Fairmont.

Right now, the current facility holds both the courthouse and the security building, but there is both a safety and a security concern.

So far, state money will pay for design work, but not the upgrades the county says are so important.

As Jail Administrator Tanya Rathman explains, one issue currently facing the Martin County Court House is a lack of space.

Most facilities have inmates wait in a locked area separate from the courtroom.

But here, that’s not the case.

“But there’s still the attempt and the uneasiness of people having the inmates right here, and they don’t always get seen right away, so they’re sitting here when everybody else is waiting to get seen, too," said Rathman. “And they have that interaction with victims or other family members.”

It’s not just inside the courtroom.

Due to the lack of space, inmates could cross paths with members of the general public in hallways or lobbies.

The courthouse and the security office are combined by a single walkway.

The entire facility currently sits at around 46,000 square feet.

An upgraded Martin County Justice Center would increase in size to about 70,000 square feet.

The plan is to move it to a location in Fairmont.

The county was recently awarded about $2 million to begin work on a new justice center from the bonding bill passed earlier this month during the state legislature’s fifth special session.

County Coordinator Scott Higgins said the funding is a step in the right direction.

“When they passed it, we knew we could continue on with the project. I mean the state funding is much needed for this project. So it made it more realistic for us," he said.

But that money only helps with the predesign.

“We’ll be going back to the legislature and do the overall cost of the project to request further funding for the construction of the new facility," Higgins said.

They’ll have to wait a few years before construction could begin.

Martin County said there are also needs for a modern jail facility and proper meeting space for attorneys and clients.

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