Several issues have plagued the Law Enforcement Center in recent years.
Lake Region Law Enforcement Center director Rob Johnson appeared at Tuesday morning’s meeting of the Ramsey County Commission to propose hiking the rate the LEC charges to house prisoners.
Johnson told the commission that an increase of five dollars per prisoner would raise $90,000 annually for the facility, which has undergone security, leadership and financial issues in recent years.
Without the increase, Johnson warned, the LEC budget would likely end up in the red.
"I don't want to come with my hand out at the end of the year,” Johnson said. “We’re just not making it.”
Though he noted that recent inmate counts have been up, he said that he suspects that the recent uptick is “a short-term swing” that is unlikely to be sustained.
The LEC brings in more revenue the more inmates are housed there, and Johnson said at the meeting that he expects and increase in US Marshals prisoners as the agency “regains confidence” in security at LEC following a number of escapes over the years.
The most recent escape in April 2016 involved an inmate who was able to break through a window and remained on the run for about 10 days.
The facility serves not only Ramsey, but Benson, Eddy, Nelson and Towner counties, so those commissions and the Devils Lake City Commission will also need to approve the rate hike.
Johnson said he’s “fairly confident” that the city and four counties will approve the increase, while also saying that “the groundwork has been laid” for the increase in Nelson and Towner counties.
It was reported at the meeting that the rate is currently $70 per prisoner, with the proposed new $75 rate being just above the state average of $72 per prisoner.
Another issue that the commission discussed was the age of the Law Enforcement Center building itself, which will be 41 years old this year. Maintenance issues have been reported at the facility in recent years, and Johnson reported that a boiler which stopped working over the past weekend likely will need to be replaced.
He estimated that the cost could be about $6,000.
Johnson mentioned that future in-house drug treatment and job training at the Re-entry Center could make the facility more attractive to agencies around the state that seek to place and rehabilitate inmates.