Scott, Carver Counties Discuss Possible Jail Merger
The latest public merger idea is to combine jails in Scott and Carver counties.
County officials began discussing the possibility this month with the hopes of reducing costs, and increasing efficiency and effectiveness, Scott County Administrator Gary Shelton said Wednesday.
Right now, staff in both counties are taking a deeper look at the idea.
The Scott County Jail, 301 Fuller St. S. in Shakopee, holds up to 264 inmates. But for the past four years, the jail has been averaging an inmate capacity of 116, Shelton said.
The county opened the $32 million facility in 2005 after closing an older jail and a separate annex facility in Jordan, Minn. Condensing the jails back then was a cost savings, Shelton said. The county built the latest jail to hold the area's future population.
By comparison, the Carver County Jail, 606 E. Fourth St. in Chaska, holds up to 117 inmates, according to a Carver County report presented March 19 to Scott County. The facility, built in 1994, has had an average capacity of 78 inmates during the past four years.
Scott County's annual budget is $4.9 million for its jail. Carver's annual jail budget is $3.9 million. Scott County generates about $500,000 in revenue from housing inmates from other jurisdictions. Carver County generates about $1.1 million in such revenue.
The jails are nearly 5 miles away from each other.
But it remains unclear if the counties would save from merging the jails, Shelton said.
The counties are studying how other areas would be affected by such a change, including the court system and police departments.
“There are a lot of questions that have to be answered,” Shelton said. Right now, potential costs savings are "really, really up in the air.”
Scott County has experience with embarking on mergers.
In January, Scott County combined its morgue services with Dakota and Hennepin counties. Last year, the county also merged its transit services with Carver County.
But not all mergers can result in costs savings, Shelton said.
An idea to merge 911 dispatch services in Carver and Scott counties fell through when officials determined that the move wouldn't be financially beneficial.
County officials will continue the discussion about merging jails once staff from both areas study the potential benefits further, Shelton said.