The Scott County Board of Commissioners authorized a $604,700 jail security system upgrade in June.
“What I can tell you about our old system is, it’s tanking,” Scott County Jail Administrator Doug Schnurr said. “Right now it’s held together with bubblegum, spit and a lot of prayers.”
The current security system allows a “central command” to control movement throughout the building. An officer at the master control is able to open and close entry points in hallways and cells, and can watch individuals move throughout the building via camera, as well as control utilities like water and fire suppression. The system is meant to make officers’ movement through facilities more efficient than a lock and key system, while improving response time to a potential emergency.
However, the system assessment earlier this year revealed the current technology is outdated and will soon become obsolete.
“Our old system is not able to take on expansion of the new system,” Schnurr said.
The expansion of the law enforcement center and addition of extra holding rooms in the new government center in Shakopee pose a critical challenge for the current system, which is at capacity, said Sheriff Luke Hennen.
“Basically we need to make it so that the technology can all ‘speak’ to each other,” Hennen said.
With each entry point, there is an additional security risk, Hennen said. To minimize these risks, there needs to be greater control over the aspects of the entire jail building. A complete overhaul and integration of the security system is required to achieve this level of control, he said.
The upgrade was initially scheduled for 2022. However, after construction began on the new government center, the existing security system was assessed to see whether it could be expanded to include a new law enforcement center addition. The assessment revealed challenges that, if not addressed, would cause the system to overload.
The approved project will upgrade the security control and intercom system software, as well as replace monitors, intercom speakers and controls throughout the jail building that may be outdated or failing. It will also allow relevant cameras to interface all on one system.
County Administrator Lezlie Vermillion said that although the project was originally slated for 2022, it was moved forward following the re-assessment of the technology.
“This project was in the program for a replacement,” Vermillion said, “But it was moved forward due to the building construction. It just made (operating and financial) sense to move up the construction, especially when the system was at a risk for failure.”
In order to make room in the budget for the upgrade, other projects had to be reprioritized.
“That this system has lasted 15 years without a major overhaul is unusual,” Vermillion said. “It has had components switched out as they have failed — the system was at the point of not being able to obtain some of those units and was not able to be expanded to handle the additional holding cells.”
As technology continues to change and improve, there may need to be another sizable investment in future years to maintain efficiency and security, according to Vermillion. But Vermillion said the county plans to rotate in new technology on a staggered, annual basis to make the improvements as long-term as possible.