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Bakken crime: Watford City law enforcement center on time and under budget

To combat the growing crime rates that came along with the frantic drilling rates, regional, state and county entities have been working together, along with ICON Architectural Group, to help keep western North Dakota safe.

The exponential growth of North Dakota’s oil patch has left state agencies scrambling to catch up with the population boom and the infrastructure needed to support it, such as schools, roads and unfortunately, law enforcement facilities.

“A lot of good people do come seeking opportunities, but also along with that comes opportunists, people who take advantage of our citizens, people who are here to deal drugs, to engage in human trafficking and other kinds of criminal activity,” Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem told the Forum News Service (FNS).

Growing need

About six years ago the community of Watford City, located in McKenzie County, had only four police officers and four sheriff’s deputies. Those figures have since grown to include 19 police officers and 25 deputies, which will soon call the new McKenzie County Combined Law Enforcement Center their home-base.

Building the new facility was made possible by the highly collaborative efforts between agencies such as the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Office, the Watford City Police Department, the McKenzie Board of County Commissioners, Watford City and ICON Architecture, as well as cooperation on the state level.

As reported by the McKenzie County Farmer, County Sheriff Gary Schwartzenberger said, “Heidi Brenna from ICON Architecture coordinated for Chief Art Walgren and I to embark on a whirlwind tour of several correction centers and law enforcement facilities throughout the state, and together we were able to bring back several dos and don’ts for a facility of this size.”

McKenzie County’s current jail has 12 beds for the usual 45 to 65 inmates in custody. Last year, the county spent over $2.2 million to transport and house inmates in different areas. The new law enforcement center will be able to house 129 prisoners and will have office space for numerous law enforcement agencies including the North Dakota Highway Patrol, the Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Northwest Narcotics Task Force among others.

Schwartzenberger said, “We learned a lot about how a combined law enforcement center should properly function and flow, and what style of jail was needed for a safe and secure facility that will be as proficient as possible. There has been a collaborative effort between all to ensure the long-term safety and security of the people of McKenzie County,” reports the McKenzie County Farmer.

Under budget and on time

Construction on the 93,000-square-foot facility began in June. By working with ICON Architecture, city and county officials refined the plans for the facility and began getting its bids out to contractors. The project, funded by a low-interest loan from the Bank of North Dakota, is estimated to cost about $57 million.

However, Brenna with ICON Architecture says the process of bidding for contracts is showing promise that the endeavor will be completed under budget, a feat normally unheard of for construction projects of this magnitude. The facility is also on-track for its anticipated completion date of May 2017.

Watford City Police Chief Art Walgren said, “This project just shows the spirit of cooperation on all levels. This is obviously a very important facility for McKenzie County … This team of multiple law enforcement agencies will all be housed together to collaborate in order to fight crime together, which is a common goal we all share.”