NERCC Requests Additional State Funding

By KBJR News 1

March 2, 2012 Updated Mar 2, 2012 at 8:01 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - It's an establishment the likes of which no one intends to become a resident.

However, according to Kay Arola—Director of Arrowhead Regional Corrections—there are far worse places to do your time: "We have outstanding programming—education programming, chemical dependency programming. It's a very respectful environment, where the residents here know that the staff really do care about them making the changes that are important and keep them out of facilities like this."

The Northeast Regional Corrections Center—or NERCC—is a 3200 acre, 150 bed minimum security adult male facility, serving over 500 minor offenders annually through work–related activity: mechanics, maintenance, even farming.

Arguably, the most impressive factor in regard to the facility is the low level of recidivism among residents: 83% do not repeat offenses at a felony level for three years after discharge.

"Rather than to just lock up offenders—especially young offenders—in a secure setting, we are able to try and help them overcome the problems that led to court interventions in the first place," said NERCC Superintendent Warren Salmela.

Given the fact that the building itself dates back to the 30's, it's safe to say that much of the equipment is beginning to show its age.

"Our heating system is antiquated. It is a wood-chip/boiler system. It's very energy inefficient, and that needs to be changed over. We have some very drafty windows in this building, the walls are not insulated adequately," said Salmela.

And on Wednesday, Arola and the ARC Board took their proposed improvement project to St. Paul in hopes of receiving state appropriation as a part of Governor Dayton's bonding bill.

"We have asked for $737,500 from the state, and our board have all committed to match that funding. So, we are looking at a $1.5 million improvement project," said Arola.

...a relatively modest proposal, according to Arola, which leaves her cautiously optimistic—a bill has already been authored and sponsored in the House of Representatives.

"We did get one hearing in the public safety committee. They seemed very interested. And,Senator David Tomassoni has introduced a bill on the senate side," said Arola.

...helping ensure there are no road blocks to getting offenders back on the right path.

According to Arola, upon completion of the renovations, the energy savings have an anticipated return of 50 percent.