Pennington County eyes drug court

by April Scheinoha

    A drug court may be in Pennington County’s future. Commissioners approved preliminary drug court funding and training at their meeting Tuesday, Feb. 14.
    Sixty-three percent of violations in the northwest part of the state include some form of chemical dependency, said Marc Bloomquist with the Minnesota Department of Corrections. Bloomquist’s work area includes Pennington, Kittson, Lake of Woods, Marshall, Roseau and Hubbard counties.
    The resolution enables the county to have a team in place to complete drug court training as part of a grant. The team will then apply for a larger grant to institute the drug court. Pennington County Attorney Al Rogalla noted that the latter grant application process is highly competitive. Roseau County has received grant funding for a drug court whereas Beltrami County, which also applied, didn’t receive funding in this latest round of funding.
    According to information provided to commissioners, “the drug court integrates alcohol and other drug treatment services with criminal system processing.” Positive drug tests or admitting in court to using or possessing drugs won’t result in additional charges based on that information.
    The drug court will be operated similarly to how the county operates its DWI Court. That court is for non-violent adult offenders. Rogalla noted that the county has yet to determine what types of drug offenses or specific levels of drug offenses will enable a person to be eligible for drug court.
    Commissioners approved $54,939.45 in change orders for the justice center. The majority of the change orders included changes in the future court administration, court holding and related areas. Among other things, the changes included more space in the court administration area. The change orders also included credits and other cost savings.
    The construction budget includes $716,828.58 in contingency money for the $18.3 million project.
    “Things like this do come up,” said Pete Filippi with construction management firm Contegrity Group. He noted the change orders are in line with industrywide expectations.
    Architect Bruce Schwartzman with BKV Group noted that both firms look at any change orders. He commended Contegrity Group for its work.
    Filippi expected that workers may start installing steel at the site the first week of March.