— Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposal to borrow $750 million for construction projects includes, as expected, $14.5 million to expand Mankato’s Verizon Wireless Center.
Much less trumpeted, though, is his request for $51.1 million in renovations to the Regional Treatment Center in St. Peter.
The improvements would make the Minnesota Security Hospital safer, said Chuck Carlson, president of the AFSCME Local 404.
The facility’s blind corners and compartmentalized layout make it easier to assault someone in private and difficult to see someone who needs help. The renovations would open up the floor plan to remove those hard-to-see spots.
Violence continues to be a problem in Security Hospital, the home of people committed by the courts as mentally ill and dangerous.
There were 93 staff injuries reported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration last year and 434 assaults.
“This is the worst year on record,” Carlson said.
Another problem with the layout is the lack of space.
Right now, new additions to the hospital are put on the crisis unit, where the worst patients are put.
“When you bring in people who’re behaviorally out of control and mix in new admissions ... it’s bound to cause problems,” Carlson said.
The governor also included the renovation request (for $40 million) in his 2012 bonding proposal. The 2011 bonding bill included $7 million in renovations at Security Hospital.
Rep. Clark Johnson, DFL-North Mankato, learned about the issue during the campaign earlier this year and quickly became an advocate for the renovations.
“To me, it became very much an ethical issue,” he said. “We ask these people to live under challenging circumstances ... and we don’t provide the safest facility that we can. That seems wrong.”
The governor also proposed spending $1.25 million to help the city of Truman design and build new rain water pipes to help two areas of the city that are flooded during heavy rains.