By Ivan Raconteur
The Lester Prairie Police Department building is undergoing an extreme makeover designed to make the existing space more usable.
The city council authorized the work Dec. 10 to address space needs for both the police department and the city office.
Wayne Goodell Construction of Lester Prairie is completing the work, which includes $9,475 in improvements to the police building and $3,886 in improvements to city hall.
In the police building, the work will include removal of one restroom, including plumbing fixtures and two walls, removal of an eight-foot wall between the office and the evidence room, and construction of new interior walls.
The plans also include installation of a service counter, a waiting room, and a two-way mirror between the chief’s office and the waiting room.
A dead bolt lock and bars will be installed on the front door.
New carpet will be installed in both office spaces.
The remaining restroom will be converted to make it a uni-sex facility.
The plans for city hall include removal of the existing file room and construction of a new, larger storage room.
The extra space is needed to store records, some of which are currently stored in the police department building.
The trophy case on the wall of the city office will be moved, and a service counter will be installed.
Council said it could not wait to address space needs
City staff has been asking the council to address space concerns for several years.
Last November, the council asked Carlson to get information about temporary measures to resolve the space issues faced by the police department and the city staff.
When Police Chief Bob Carlson presented plans for the temporary improvements during the Dec. 10 council meeting, he said he was not looking for approval at that time but was providing the plan for information only, to give the council time to review it before the Wednesday, Jan. 9 public meeting.
Rather than waiting until January, the council approved the temporary improvements Dec. 10.
Discussion about the space needs began several years ago.
A plan to move the police department into city hall and sell the existing police building was presented but was not approved.
Supporters of the plan said it would have given city employees a more functional work space, and the sale of the police building would generate income, reduce costs, and put the building back on the tax rolls.
Opponents have expressed concern about losing some of the meeting space at city hall.
The council has also looked at other properties in the city for possible relocation, but no decisions have been made.
At the suggestion of resident Ed Mlynar, the council scheduled a public meeting Wednesday, Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. at city hall to get public input about how the city should address its space needs.
Mlynar said the population of the city has grown, and the city staff has been working under cramped conditions for several years.
Mlynar also said Lester Prairie may need to consider hiring a city administrator in the next three-to-five years, and space will be needed to accommodate this.
Despite the fact that work has been started on the improvements, the changes are intended only as a temporary measure to address the city’s needs for today. The city will need to consider long-term solutions at the public meeting in January, City Clerk Marilyn Pawelk said.
And, while the renovations are a temporary fix, the city says the cost of the improvements was not wasted.
In addition to making the space more functional for the city’s current needs, the changes will make the police building more saleable if the city ever decides to sell it,” Pawelk said.
The police building is a small, narrow space that was dominated by two restrooms at the front of the building.
Visitors had to walk down a hall and around two corners before entering the office.
This presented security concerns, according to Carlson. If he was at his desk conducting an interview or making a phone call, he was unable to see anyone who entered the building.
Park discussion added to meeting agenda
The council added discussion of Central Park to the agenda for the public meeting.
The council previously appointed a committee to come up with a plan to improve the park in downtown Lester Prairie.
“If we are going to go to the time and effort to do that (have a meeting), why not open it up to the park idea,” Angvall said.
“That would be a good time for the committee to bring us up to speed,” Foust agreed.
The council asked the park committee to make a presentation at the Jan. 9 meeting.
The city still wants residents to attend the public hearing to provide input about how the city can address long-term space issues in the city.
The meeting will be moderated by Tom Thelen of the League of Minnesota Cities.