ST. CLOUD (WJON News) -- Stearns County commissioners have some major decisions ahead of them as efforts ramp up this year to build a new Justice Center.

Commissioners must decide where a new jail will be built, whether it stays downtown or as part of a completely new campus elsewhere in St. Cloud.

Decisions are also needed on whether the Sheriff's Office, Court Administration operations, and County Attorney's Office are part of the project.

Assistant County Administrator Steve Hammes says the current jail was built in 1986 and they've been dealing with overcrowding since 2003. He says the Minnesota Department of Corrections has sounded the alarm that Stearns County needs a new jail...

The state Department of Corrections comes out and inspects all of the jails across the state on a regular basis to see if they're compliant with the current regulations that the state enforces. And, they've been telling us for a few years that they're going to start telling us it's time to build a jail. They've done that with other counties, Winona is an example, where they basically said you need to build a new jail or we're going to shut you down.

The board of commissioners has approved a plan to ask voters for a 3/8 cent sales tax to help pay for the project which is estimated to cost between $270-million and $300-million.

One of the next decisions facing county commissioners is whether to keep the new complex downtown or move it to a different location and create a new campus.

Building Facilities Director Kevin Korneck says a Justice Center on a completely new campus would take approximately three years to build, while if they use the current downtown location, the project would take 7-8 years to complete.

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