Cook County courthouse - Photo by Rhonda Silence
Rhonda Silence

County officials again consider facility needs for public health, law enforcement

Cook County officials and the local budget advisory committee are once again exploring the need for increased work space inside various facilities, including public health and the sheriff’s department.

This process will again, at least initially, include engaging with representatives from Wold Architects and Engineers, a design firm based in the Twin Cities. The company is familiar with local government in Cook County, including a vision they shared with local officials in 2019 to expand the local jail facility. This proposed plan, with a price tag of around $5 million, led to an outpouring of community concern and public comments shared in commissioner meetings.

County Administrator James Joerke told WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs in a recent interview (audio below) that he does not think it is necessary at this time to revisit the possibility of expanding the local jail facility. However, Joerke said there is a need for more space for the public health department staff to do their jobs, as well as deputies at the sheriff’s department. How those needs for space are addressed are in the early stages of discussion, Joerke said.

Representatives from Wold Architects will be meeting with county officials in October to begin the next steps of the planning process, according to the county administrator.

Also shared in the interview is an update on the county’s potential to incorporate a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for county employees. As he previously told WTIP, it does not appear a recent federal mandate will require public-sector employees, such as those who work in local government in Cook County, to be required to get the vaccine. That being the case, some Minnesota counties are requiring their staff to be vaccinated or test weekly for the virus. Cook County officials continue to navigate the situation and will share an update at their next meeting on Oct. 12, Joerke said.