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Workman touts SMART Center and highlights existing challenges at State of the County

Dakota County Board of Commissioners Chair Liz Workman addresses the crowd at the State of the County address on April 17, 2019. David Clarey / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 2
Liz Workman and Dakota County manager Matt Smith look on as Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie addresses the crowd on public safety. David Clarey / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 2

Liz Workman, the Dakota County Board of Commissioners chair, touted the upcoming SMART Center and noted the county's challenges at the State of the County on Wednesday morning.

Workman and Matt Smith, Dakota County manager, focused on affordable housing, mental health and public safety during the address at the Ames Center in Burnsville. Much of the event took place in the form of a moderated question-and-answer session where Workman and Smith answered a wide range of general questions on different aspects of the county.

"We are fortunate to live and work in the third largest county in Minnesota," Workman said to a group of chamber of commerce members and other Dakota County residents.

In her address, Workman touched on the work the county has done to confront housing issues. The county housed over 200 homeless people in shelters last year and approved $1.2 million in additional funding for the community services division, she said.

"At the most extreme, the housing challenge shows up as homelessness," Workman said.

Workman touted the Safety and Mental Health Alternative Response Training Center, which will focus on training law enforcement on crisis intervention and other modern police training tactics, as a way the county is addressing mental health. The SMART Center is planned for a 2020 opening and the county acquired the Inver Grove Heights land for the center in February.

"As many of you know, mental health issues continue to be one of the challenges many of us face ... for the county it is at the intersection of community services, public health and law enforcement," Workman said.

Workman also noted results from last year's residential survey which found that residents thought the quality of life in Dakota County to be higher than most other comparable counties and that they were satisfied with offerings like libraries and parks.

The question-and-answer portion of the address focused on basic functions such as the budget, road maintenance and county programs. Workman broke down the budget and said that the county is projected to stay debt free for at least the next two years.

Smith highlighted the recently announced Lyft partnership for county residents with disabilities to have another form of transportation and two other initiatives focused on in-home medical aid and early childhood education screening.