County considering options for evidence facility

Cascade County officials are considering plans for a new evidence facility on the Adult Detention Center grounds.

County Commissioners met Nov. 21 with Undersheriff Scott Van Dyken and Les Payne, county public works director, to discuss the project.

Commissioner Joe Briggs said that the commission was unaware of the project other than a recent memo from staff indicating that the project would likely cost more than the earlier $1.5 million estimate.

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Payne said that he thought the commission had been aware, since the former public works director and later special project manager, Brian Clifton, had worked on the project years ago.

Briggs said they’d seen it on a wish list years ago but were unaware it was an active project now.

Staff is looking at options for constructing a new, free-standing evidence processing and storage facility on the grounds of the sheriff’s office/jail facility.

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Payne said he’s received estimates for the project and forwarded the numbers to commissioners and Van Dyken, but they have not yet met again to discuss the project nor are they any signed contracts for the project.

Payne said that estimate was $149,500 for architectural and engineering fees and $1,755,000 for construction costs, for a total of $1,904,500.

That’s for a proposed 8,640-square-foot facility with about 2,400-square-feet upstairs for cold storage, and the main floor would be evidence processing and a bathroom. Payne told The Electric that the design may have to be scaled back to meet the budget.

Van Dyken said they’re running out of room for evidence and records storage.

He said they have “boxes and boxes of records” and evidence as large as couches and beds from homicides, as well RVs.

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Van Dyken told commissioners that the sheriff’s office had turned their old evidence room into the morgue, which has been helpful, and that space didn’t have enough room for processing evidence in many cases.

With limited space to process large evidence, Van Dyken said they recently had a case of two deceased persons in a camper in Sun Prairie and deputies had to process the camper outside in subzero temperatures.

The sheriff’s office is “busting at the seams,” Van Dyken said.

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He said they’re storing records upstairs at the sheriff’s office, but leaks are causing damage.

“We need a secure spot for all of this,” Van Dyken said.

They also need space to park their search and rescue jet boat that was purchased with a grant, and a new $700,000 command vehicle that is coming to the county, also funded by a grant, Van Dyken and Payne told commissioners.

Briggs said that when Van Dyken submitted the grant there was no mention of storing the command vehicle and that it would be a regional asset and not the county’s responsibility.

Van Dyken said it would be owned by the sheriff’s office to maintain command and control and users would require specialized training.

Payne said in some instances, they’ve had to use the county’s weed and mosquito facility to process evidence, which displaces other county operations.

If the new facility is constructed, evidence storage and processing would be moved to that space and the current space, which is shared between evidence and maintenance, would become a purely maintenance facility.

Van Dyken said that once evidence is processed, some can be returned, some may not need to be stored indoors, but much of it has to be held for years, depending on the type of case and associated retention laws.

Any contract for the proposed facility would go before commissioners for approval and the item has not yet been placed on a formal agenda.