Kewaunee County officials are warming up to the idea of a privately owned, state-run prison somewhere in the county.
The Algoma City Council this week passed a reolution in support of Assembly Bill 292 and Senate Bill 228, which would authorize the sale of the Green Bay Correctional Institution and replace it with a new facility either in Brown County or an adjacent county.
The county Personnel, Advisory & Legislative Committee is scheduled to consider a similar ordinance when it meets next Thursday, and Algoma Mayor Wayne Schmidt says the Luxemburg Village Board and Kewaunee City Council are also planning to discuss the idea.
The bill calls for the new, 1,300-bed prison to be built either in Brown County or an adjacent county. Much speculation has been directed at Kewaunee County, especially the Wisconsin 54 highway corridor in the county’s northwest corner between Walhain and Luxemburg.
But Schmidt told the council another possibility would be for land on the edge of Algoma to be acquired and annexed into the city.
“It would help not only the city of Algoma with the tax base, it would help the utility with electric, with water,” Schmidt said. The resolution says, in effect, that the city does not object to the idea, “but it does not mean that we’re ready to move forward; all it means is that we’re expressing an interest.”
Schmidt said Oconto County officials are also open to the idea, but Outagamie County – Brown’s other neighbor – has opted out.
City Administrator Jeff Wiswell said the project, to be built by 2022, would have the potential to add more than 50 percent to the city’s valuation. As a privately owned facility, it would be subject to property taxes.
Algoma’s total valuation is currently about $160 million, and the Department of Administration estimates the new prison would cost between $85 million and $100 million to build, Wiswell said.
The council passed the resolution on a voice vote without discussion.
The resolution prepared for the county committee describes the bill as “a sensible, pragmatic, and cost-effective approach to retiring GBCI while addressing the state’s correctional needs.”
It would put the county board on record as saying it supports the measure and “welcomes the exploration and consideration of Kewaunee County as a site for a new correctional facility.”
The committee is scheduled to meet at noon June 15 at the county Administration Center, 810 Lincoln St., Kewaunee.