WATFORD CITY, N.D. – Governor Doug Burgum and Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford today attended the grand opening of the new McKenzie County Combined Law Enforcement Center.
McKenzie County and Watford City collaborated on the $57 million project, providing much-needed space for sheriff’s deputies and police officers and expanding the county’s jail capacity from 21 beds to 136 beds.
During the past seven years, the Watford City Police Department has grown from four sworn police officers to 21 officers and the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Department has increased from four sworn deputies to 34 deputies. The law enforcement center also will house North Dakota Highway Patrol troopers, North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents and members of the Northwest Narcotics Task Force.
The facility also alleviates the space crunch for the McKenzie County Jail, which at times has housed more than 70 inmates at other jails across North Dakota, creating an extraordinary financial burden on the county in terms of manpower, boarding costs and inmate transport expenses.
“Congratulations on this much-needed facility, a great example of how government agencies can achieve efficiencies when they work together to solve common problems. This resolves severe space constraints for law enforcement and corrections while improving collaboration and public safety,” Burgum said. “Going forward as a state, we will strive to reduce incarceration rates through criminal justice reform and a stronger focus on treating addiction like the chronic disease it is.”
“This facility gives our city, county and state law enforcement personnel the working environment they need to handle the busy pace in the center of the Bakken,” said Sanford, who was mayor of Watford City during planning of the facility. “Thank you and congratulations to law enforcement, the McKenzie County Commission and the Watford City City Council for their leadership and collaboration in completing this project.”
The project was financed with a low-interest loan from the state-owned Bank of North Dakota, which will be repaid with revenue from the oil and gas gross production tax.
The governor and lieutenant governor participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony after touring the 94,080-square-foot facility with Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem; Col. Michael Gerhart, superintendent of the North Dakota Highway Patrol; Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Director Leann Bertsch; and other state, county and city officials.
The county and city will operate the facility through a joint powers agreement.