Churchill County Commissioners dedicate new Law Enforcement Center | NevadaAppeal.com

Churchill County Commissioners dedicate new Law Enforcement Center

Steve Ranson
LVN Editor Emeritus

Wednesday's ceremony dedicating Churchill County's new $17-million state-of-the-art facility Law Enforcement Center (LEC) will long be remembered not only by the individuals who made the project happen but also by a community that waited for years for a new jail.

Both Churchill County Commission Chairman Pete Olsen and Sheriff Ben Trotter praised the vision of those who saw the need for a new LEC two blocks from the current facility on 73 N. Maine St.

"This facility has been a long time in the making," Olsen told more than 100 people who attended a dedication ceremony for the 39,000-foot center.

Olsen gave a quick history lesson on Churchill County jails, beginning with a calaboose that was built on Center Street for $149 in 1902 to a rock building jail built three years later on Williams Avenue. When cells were added, Olsen said the small jail, now wedged between the courthouse and CC Communications, cost $4,477. In 1973, crews built a new jail on North Maine Street, which was used for several generations.

"The building served our community well," Olsen said, but noting how obsolete the facility is today. "I moved here in 1972, and I believe our population has doubled since that time."

As the county population grew, however, the current facility began to outgrow its use. Talk of a new detention facility began more than a decade ago, and Olsen said it took incredible planning and an incredible amount of money to meet the demands of law enforcement and to satisfy legal requirements as dictated by the U.S. Department of Justice. Olsen praised both Trotter and his staff for their work and sacrifices to make the completion of the new LEC successful.

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By approving the construction of the LEC, Trotter said the county commissioners did what was best for the community although the $17-million price tag was a "hot potato." Describing the current facility, Trotter said the jail has caused logistical problems, and is dangerous to both staff and inmates. Furthermore, Trotter thanked County Manager Eleonore Lockwood for her drive in seeing the project was completed.

"Eleonore doesn't like to leave loose ends," Trotter pointed out. "She likes to get projects done now."

First elected in 2010, Trotter commended both the architect firm, Arrington Watkins Architects of Phoenix, Ariz., and the construction company, Sletten Companies Construction of Las Vegas for working closely with the county. Trotter encouraged his staff, especially those who worked in the jail, to help with ideas and assist the architect with their thoughts. The building features an upgrade in equipment to meet the needs of the 21st century, the sheriff added.

"This facility was designed from scratch where we used contents from other facilities, but we needed something to work for our ship here in Churchill County," Trotter explained. "This is very much a custom-built facility. I want to thank this community for allowing us to do this and for supporting us and for taking tours with us."

Olsen said the No. 1 priority of government is protecting its residents with law enforcement, judges, public defenders and the district attorney and his staff.

"We have a very safe community, and (I'm) very thankful for it."

Olsen also recognized the City of Fallon for its support and singled out Mayor Ken Tedford and council members Bob Erickson, Kelly Frost and James Richardson for their assistance.

Principal architect Matt Gorman of Arrington Watkins Architects said it took "many people working many hours" to make this project a success. He said Arrington Watkins strives to make facilities fit the operation.

Olsen said Sletten Companies Construction also battled the area's bad weather of rain, snow and ice during the late winter and early spring months. Troy Ewart, Sletten's vice president, said he's been involved with both this facility and the new Lyon County detention facility for about five to six years. He added the LEC, which was completed on time and under budget, will serve Churchill County for many years.

Olsen also introduced the county's building official and project manager, Cliff Van Woert, who has worked on three major projects — the juvenile detention facility, the William N. Pennington Life Center and now the LEC — and how he has saved the county money.

Likewise, Olsen said Comptroller Alan Kalt did most of the work in-house, which saved money.

"He knew what it took to get funding," Olsen said.

Olsen, though said building the facility wouldn't have been done if not for the United States Department of Agriculture, which provided the direct loan support.

Lockwood also thanked the residents of Churchill County.

"It's a wonderful time today to say thank you for the amazing community we live in and the amazing people," she said.

She acknowledged the commissioners and their resolve to ensure an LEC will meet the needs of the county.

Representatives from the Reno offices of Congressman Mark Amodei and Sens. Dean Heller and Catherine Cortez Masto also spoke and gave certificates to the entities involved.

To wrap up the ceremony, the commissioners conducted a ribbon cutting followed by tours of the building and a luncheon.

Commissioners initially approved a bid of $15,245,911 on June 18, 2016, with the county contributing about $2.3 million in funds while obtaining a $15 million loan through the USDA's Community Facilities program.

"USDA's $15 million direct loan for the Churchill County Law Enforcement Center exemplifies how USDA supports essential community facilities in rural areas, and we are proud to play a part in helping Churchill County with a new facility that will meet the community's needs for decades to come," said Rural Development State Director Phil Cowee.

The LEC replaces a facility that opened in 1973 with 52 beds, eight of which are designated for females. At various times, Trotter said the temporary number of female inmates has been as high as 24 during the past seven years. Trotter, who has conducted private tours of the jail, said the new facility has 120 beds and could expand with 24 more beds in the future.

The LEC currently has six different housing pods but has the room to add a seventh pod.

"Each cell is individually controlled," Trotter said, adding inmates can be separated in a minimum or maximum area depending on their charges.

Trotter said Churchill County couldn't stay within the laws regarding jails. For example, he said the 1973 jail has only one holding cell.

In his tour with members of the Fallon Chamber of Commerce, Trotter showed them the new 911 dispatch center, administrative areas for the detention staff, the lobby for public entry, the booking and holding areas and a room separated by glass for inmates to talk to their legal representatives.

Trotter also showed the group the modern security electronics system and an observation room where detention staff can monitor the inmates in the day rooms.

The second-term sheriff touted the state-of-the-art technology and a spacious dispatch center that will replace the cramped one at the Maine Street building.

Arrington Watkins Architects designed the multi-million-dollar facility along with Trotter and several other departments, and Sletten Companies Construction built the law enforcement center almost a year-and-a-half after groundbreaking occurred in late June 2016.

More than 17 months have lapsed since the groundbreaking, but the project officially began in 2008.

The Criminal Justice Committee spent years to come up with a plan, and Churchill County committed in 2014 to implement a Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) plan for a new law enforcement center. The process began by hiring a contractor and an architect.