TUESDAY, 08/15/2023, 7:45 p.m.
KEWAUNEE, Wis. (WFRV) – The Kewaunee County Board of Supervisors has voted to allow officials to begin working with ‘Midwest Construction Consultants’ on a new design for the Kewaunee County Jail.
Supervisors passed the resolution by a vote of 11-7. County officials tell Local Five News that they aren’t committing any money to the consulting firm at this time, it’s just discussions for now.
Kewaunee County Board chairman Dan Olson said that after the board voted down the original proposal for a $33.2 million jail he began looking around for other counties that had done similar projects. His search took him to Iowa.
“Jackson County Iowa was building a jail, very similar county, similar in size and many other ways to this county,” said Olson. “They are actually building a county jail for $6 million.”
Last month, the county board voted down a proposal for a new jail after inflation pushed the price tag over $8 million over original budget.
“Many of them (people in Kewaunee County) thanked me for voting against it,” said Olson. “People felt that it was too big of a project for a county this size.”
Kewaunee County sheriff Matt Joski and other county officials have put in about eight years of work into planning for a new jail facility. He told Local Five News he was disappointed the board voted down the original jail project, but said he’s very motivated to continue to find a solution.
He said the current Kewaunee County jail, which he said is the oldest and smallest in the state, isn’t cutting it.
“There’s some structural issues, there’s issues related to the roof, there’s issues related to the detention-locking mechanisms,” said Sheriff Joski. “There’s some significant expenses that will be incurred because we can no longer expect the Department Of Corrections to give us a free pass.”
Joski warned that what worked in those counties in Iowa won’t necessarily work in Kewaunee County. He said throughout the process of working with the ‘Midwest Construction Consultants’ group he’ll be a watchdog to make sure the design is what is truly best for the county.
“I will not allow the scope of this project being reduced to compromise our operational effectiveness or the safety of my staff or those inmates,” said Sheriff Joski. “I will not allow for substandard materials to be used in this facility that is my line in the sand.”
“This isn’t just about incarceration, we have to look at it from the humanistic perspective,” he continued. “These our neighbors and members of our community. Their children go to school with our children. We might even work with these men and women. We have an obligation to not just do the bare minimum. We have an opportunity to change some lives and create a facility that can change lives and change decisions, we’re going to be a better county for it.”
County officials said they’ve spent just over $1 million on the new jail project so far.
Kewaunee County supervisors reassessing jail project
TUESDAY, 08/15/2023, 6:08 p.m.
KEWAUNEE, Wis. (WFRV) – County officials are essentially starting from scratch on plans for a new jail after board supervisors voted down a $33.2 million jail plan.
On Tuesday night, board supervisors will vote on a resolution that will allow county officials to begin working with Midwest Construction Consultants on a new design for their new jail.
According to its website, the Iowa-based group has completed numerous jail projects in its home state.
Kewaunee County Sheriff Matt Joski told Local Five News that the goal is to reduce the scope of the project to cut costs while simultaneously ensuring that they maintain essential services inside a new jail that will keep inmates and officers safe.
“Whatever path forward, we need to think first and foremost about the needs of Kewaunee County,” Sheriff Joski told Local 5 News. “That’s going to be front and center. I commend them (‘Midwest Construction Consultants’) for doing what they did down there for that cost (referring to their other projects), but they have very different needs and reality. I will continue to be an advocate for this county, our county, our criminal justice system.”
Joski said inflation drove bids for the original jail project the board rejected about $8 million over the anticipated price. A county supervisor Local Five News spoke to before the meeting said this is a major reason why he voted against it.
The sheriff told Local Five news the current jail has several major problems, including roofing and locking mechanism issues, and that its long and narrow hallways aren’t safe for inmates or officers.
The Kewaunee County board meeting begins at 6 p.m. on Tuesday. Local 5 News will provide updates on any decisions the supervisors make.