The Winona County Board on Tuesday approved a plan to build an 80-bed jail at an estimated cost of $19 million.
In 2018, the Department of Corrections said it must close the county's existing jail by Sept. 30, 2021, "due to structural and operating deficiencies in the over 40-year-old facility that could not be corrected."
Commissioners voted 3-2 to approve a general scheme for the project but will face more decisions about its details later on.
Winona County will also explore the possibility of adding a juvenile detention center and renovating its law enforcement facility, which houses the current jail, the county Sheriff's Office and the Winona Police Department.
The county's 2021 budget included $10 million in bonds for the new jail, and documents say "subsequent borrowing" will fund the rest of the project.
During Tuesday's meeting, some members of the public objected to the cost of the project, and others said they would like to see the county increase programming to keep people out of the criminal justice system before building the new jail.
In an interview Wednesday, Winona County Sheriff Ron Ganrude said he doesn't think those actions are mutually exclusive.
"We need to do both," he said. "We need to have a place to put people in custody, and we need to offer services in jail. But the county also needs to offer more services than we currently do targeting people before they get in trouble."
"We need to move forward with this project," Ganrude added. "This 80-bed project will move us into the future."
New camper cabins opening Monday
People looking for a rustic Minnesota getaway this winter have a new option.
Starting Monday morning, eight new camper cabins will be available for rent at Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park.
The year-round cabins, named using Ojibwe words for seasons and cardinal directions, will each accommodate six people with varying arrangements of double and single bunk beds. They are made with tamarack interiors and have heat, electricity and Wi-Fi, as well as an outdoor food prep counter, fire ring and table. Guests can shower and use restrooms in a nearby building.
Four cabins will be available to rent for $70 a night starting Dec. 31, and the other four cabins will be available starting Jan. 13. Call 866-857-2757 to reserve, starting at 8 a.m. Monday. Online reservations will not be taken for now.