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The ground is broken - again - for new jail


Benton County Supervisor Chairman Jason Sanders welcomed people to the ground-breaking for the new Benton County Law Enforcement Center. He is shown with Steve Meyer of the Benton County Emergency Management Agency and Congressman Leonard Boswell.

Two years ago, Benton County officials stood on the steps of the courthouse as floodwaters took over its law enforcement center and the courthouse basement.

Last week, the officials stood on the steps to see work progressing on the new law enforcement center and emergency operations center.

Benton County Supervisor Chairman Jason Sanders joked last Wednesday afternoon that it was supposed to be a ground-breaking ceremony, but it was obvious that the ground has already been broke, with the sounds of earth-moving machinery at the construction site.

“This is an opportunity to celebrate that, here we are, just short of our two-year anniversary from when the floods came through here,” Sanders said.

He said there was not just a battle with the river, but there was a lot of work to do in the flood’s aftermath.

He thanked all those who worked for their cooperation.

He said one year from now, Benton County will have a new law enforcement. center. “Right now our contractors are doing a great job. We are on schedule. Things are moving as planned.”

He was grateful that this provided an opportunity to think “out of the box” and find a place for the emergency operations center (EOC), which also was impacted by the flood two years ago.

Steve Meyer, Garrison, chairman of the Benton Community Emergency Management Agency, explained the EOC is the nerve center when there is any large-scale disaster. As early as 2000, it became apparent the center had space limitations. During the flood, effluents came into the center.

Emergency Management Coordinator Scott Hansen read about a place in Wisconsin that had received an appropriation for a new EOC. The commission followed on this, and learned they had to go to their Congressman, Rep. Leonard Boswell. Boswell’s office lined up Benton County emergency officials with whom they needed to contact for the special appropriation.

“Nobody along the way gave us a lot of hope. We jumped through all those hoops, we gave our application. And I’m driving the road one day six months later, and Scott calls me and said, ‘Guess what. It just came out. We got a half million dollars for the new EOC.’”

Meyer stressed those who work in emergency services know that nothing good like this happens without the input and help of a whole lot of people coming together to make it happen.

Congressman Boswell echoed what Meyer said about cooperation. He said it’s like the military and everybody has to do their job, crediting his staff, as well as the offices of Sen. Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley.

Boswell recalled viewing the flood damage. He had a long talk with a person with the emergency operations staff. “In the end, she said, ‘You know what Congressman? We’re all working together. And we’re going to be OK. We’re going to get the job done.’”

“That’s what it’s really all about in this great country of ours. If we work together, we can do anything. You’ve proven you can get it done by staying right in there and working together. I’m very proud of you.”

UPDATED June 9, 2010 3:22 PM

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