County Board passes funding for Dane Co. jail project

Approximately $13.5 million will now be put towards the Dane Co. jail consolidation project after the County Board voted 32-5 to pass the funds.
Published: Apr. 20, 2023 at 10:40 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 20, 2023 at 10:41 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Approximately $13.5 million will now be put towards the Dane Co. jail consolidation project after the County Board voted 32-5 to pass the funds during Thursday’s meeting.

The funds are a combination of leftover money from other projects and general obligation bonds set to be paid over 20 years. The board passed the resolution on a three-fourths vote.

The Dane Co. Board of Supervisors’ Black Caucus agreed to back the proposal for the construction of a new jail endorsed by Sheriff Kalvin Barrett. Members of the Black Caucus and the Sheriff announced the deal Wednesday during a joint news conference. The Black Caucus had previously pushed for a smaller jail than both the one originally proposed and a revised plan that shaved a floor off the first one.

Dane Co. Executive Joe Parisi recently advocated spending the $13.5 million on the jail project, which is expected to cost $179 million when completed.

When pushing for redirecting the surplus funds, Parisi had opened up the option of raising the money using 10-or 20-year bonds. District 22 Supervisor Maureen McCarville explained last week she felt the longer one would be better because the increasing population in Dane Co. would spread the payback among more people over that longer period. A ten-year bond would have required a two-thirds majority vote by the Board of Supervisors, while the 20-year proposal needed the support of three-quarters of the supervisors.

Supervisor Dana Pellebon (Dist. 33) said Wednesday that, with the deal reached with Barrett, her Caucus is ready to sign off on the longer term, which she says will lessen the financial impact on the community.

“In talking with the Black Caucus, the community, activists, and other members of the County Board, we were able to articulate to Sheriff Barrett important issues that needed to be addressed before moving forward on this vote,” she continued.

The Deal

In exchange for the Caucus’ ‘Yes’ vote on the resolution, the Sheriff agreed to back conditions involving federal prisoners, Huber inmates, and reporting by the Sheriff’s Office.

In particular, Barrett told caucus members that he will act toward removing federal in-transit inmates from the Dane Co. jail and work with the U.S. Marshal’s Service to get them transferred to other facilities. Additionally, Barrett will advocate for moving the control of the Huber program to the Dane Co. Department of Human Services. He also acceded to submitting reports in line with an amended proposal and to keep reporting on the jail population.

Per the agreement, the Sheriff’s Office will get rid of solitary confinement, or at least greatly reduce its use.

Barrett and the Black Caucus will also look into extending the CARES program currently being tested in Madison across the county. They will also work to establish a mental health court and take other steps to provide mental health services. For juvenile offenders, they plan to investigate finding alternate diversion programs to keep them from being put behind bars. The final clause will see them try to find housing and treatment options for those who experienced frequent incarceration, hospitalization, and homelessness.

The plan backed by Parisi and Dane County Sheriff Kalvin Barrett calls for a six-story, 825-bed facility. Since their plan was revealed, the projected price tag has risen twice, while the ambitions for the jail have shrunk.

During a Board meeting in January, board members voted on taking the question before Dane Co. voters on the ballot this spring through a referendum question, voting the proposal down. The Board then moved back to discussing a general obligation bond proposal. After more public comments on the $13.5 million bond issue, the Board voted in favor of rereferring the proposal to the personnel and finance committee for consideration of indefinite postponement.

The County Executive Office and Sheriff’s Office previously pushed for supervisors to put a similar question before voters during November’s mid-term ballot, only to see the deadline for that election come and go. In November, supervisors passed their own plan for a five-story structure, one floor less than the one backed by Parisi and Barrett, only to have it vetoed by the county executive two days later.

Click here to download the NBC15 News app or our NBC15 First Alert weather app.