Dane Co. Jail consolidation may require more funding than expected

Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 9:25 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A Dane Co. committee is asking for $23 million in additional funding to continue the jail consolidation project.

The Public Protection and Judiciary Committee voted Tuesday in favor of an amendment to the proposed 2022 capital budget. It would increase funding for the jail project, currently costing $148 million.

“We made a commitment as a board to the taxpayers, to the citizens of Dane County, to consolidate our three jail facilities into one to make them a safer place, a more effective place,” District 19 Supervisor Tim Rockwell, who sponsored the amendment, said.

The goal, according to the Dane Co. Sheriff’s Office, is to not only consolidate, but also replace outdated cell blocks in the City-County Building Jail, as well as provide medical and mental health spaces.

For the funding request, Rockwell cited the pandemic’s influence on higher building material costs. “It was a large project, the largest in Dane County history, certainly, and there’s a price tag that comes with that,” he said.

The extra funding has yet to be approved by the Board of Supervisors.

Dane County Sheriff Kalvin Barrett said he stands behind the budget amendment.

“I am committed to fulfilling the Jail Consolidation goals set forth for by the County Board and committees; delays and deviations from this plan continue to threaten the health and life safety of those living, working and volunteering in the CCB,” Barrett said.

The sheriff noted that this December will mark five years since the Dane County Jail Update Study findings, that stated the county should not “extend the life” of the jail but, “should work towards getting out of the building with due haste.”

The seven-member Public Protection and Judiciary Committee included three supervisors who voted against the budget amendment. District 11 Supervisor Richelle Andrae said, “I think that it’s important that we build the exact right project for what we need and not over-build or under-build on the project.”

She said a lot has changed since the project began. “We have this very unique opportunity. Right in the middle of our planning project lands a pandemic. Let’s take this opportunity to ask every last question.”

Alex Joers, district 9 supervisor, also voted against the budget amendment. He wrote to NBC15, “We need to complete the jail consolidation project. However, the amendment discussed last night was brought prematurely. The dollar amount provided does not come with the full information we, as elected officials, require to make responsible and accurate decisions nor does it facilitate any movement on the project.”

Before the amendment heads to the Board of Supervisors, it must first pass in the county’s Personnel & Finance Committee.

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