Referendum on Dane Co. jail price tag takes next step forward

Published: Jun. 16, 2022 at 5:14 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The Dane Co. Board of Supervisors is expected to take its first step Thursday in deciding if the decision on whether or not the county should spend millions more on Dane Co. jail consolidation project.

Supervisor Maureen McCarville will introduce the resolution that would put on the November ballot a referendum that would allow the county to borrow $10 million more than the amount allocated for the renovation plan. It will be circulated for cosponsors starting Thursday night and will be referred to committees for action in the coming weeks.

On Monday, County Executive Joe Parisi and Sheriff Kalvin Barrett urged supervisors to approve the resolution for a ballot question. They explained that not enough supervisors currently back an increase for it to pass the board; however, a simple majority of them is needed to approve a referendum.

To appear on November 8 ballot, the resolution needs to pass by August, Parisi noted, saying, “time is not on our side and after exploring options for close to a decade, the best and frankly only feasible plan is to put the jail to a public vote this fall.”

Dane Co. Sheriff Kalvin Barrett announces, on August 16, 2021, the Sheriff's Office will stop...
Dane Co. Sheriff Kalvin Barrett announces, on August 16, 2021, the Sheriff's Office will stop using the word 'inmate' to describe incarcerated people.(WMTV-TV)

Last month, Parisi revealed the already pared-down plan would cost the county $10 million more than already increased $165.9 million price tag. Board supervisors had agreed in March to a plan that would see 100 beds and an entire floor shaved off the original project.

In his May 17 update, Parisi told them Tuesday that the design will now cost $175.7 million, which is more than first plan was expected to cost in March when supervisors first upped how much they would spend.

When supervisors debated upping how much would be spent for the project from the original $148 million, they were told moving forward with the original plan would run $170 million. At the time, Parisi cited higher costs for materials and supply chain issues. In his letter, Parisi noted that the project would now cost $190.1 million, or about 28 percent more than initially budgeted.

Dane Co. Sheriff Kalvin Barrett, along with County Executive Joe Parisi, is expected to give an update Monday morning on the ongoing jail reconstruction project

Parisi told supervisors his office had already drafted a proposal to request the additional approximately $10 million and get the ball rolling with the designers, Mead and Hunt. He described asking them to move forward with the redesign requested by supervisors without knowing if the additional sums were approved would be “imprudent.”

He also gave the supervisors an August 18 deadline to decide whether to approve the increase or make further cuts to the project, so county officials could determine how much the county would need to borrow this fall.

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