Kewaunee County is entering the next phase of the study of how to replace its obsolete and dilapidated county jail.

Venture Architects of Milwaukee, the consulting firm that developed the needs assessment report about the 50-year-old jail and other law enforcement facilities, was hired by the County Board on Tuesday (Aug. 20) to work on Phase II of the study, which includes an in-depth review of five options identified in the first phase.

John Cain from Venture explained to the board that his firm has 11 specific tasks to complete over the next several months.

“We’re looking at the standards and codes that need to be met in a new facility, we’re going to be developing both an operational and a physical space program for a facility of roughly 80 beds – that was the recommendation that came out of the Phase I report,” Cain said. “There are sustainability goals that we’re going to be looking at with regards to the project.”

The options include doing nothing – simply razing the old jail and housing inmates in other counties – building a new jail and/or sheriff’s department offices where the old jail is now, and building a new law enforcement center at a location to be determined, Cain said.

Venture will not be drafting a “cookie cutter” plan but rather one that meets the specific needs of Kewaunee County, Cain said, including programming that is not available in the current jail, which was built in 1969.

“With the potential for a new facility and the consideration for adding classroom spaces and things like that in this new building, you can now begin to have a serious conversation with your community and other service providers as to what kinds of programming can be done within the facility – and it’s conversations that you can’t have right now,” Cain said.

Supervisor Charles Wagner told the board that every supervisor should be required to take a tour of the jail to be informed heading into next April’s elections.

“If you intend to run next year and keep involved in this process, you have to go through that jail and have the sheriff or the deputies give you a tour and show you the lack of quality in the building, to show you how degraded this 50-year-old building is … This building has got to go, OK? It can no longer be operated as a jail.”

Wagner noted that the option of doing nothing would involve the cost of razing the jail and putting in a parking lot.

“If we don’t do anything, we still have to tear the building down, because we cannot house anything in it anymore,” he said. “It’s gotten to the point where it’s so bad, it has to be replaced. We can’t patch it, we can’t fix it, because we’ve been trying to do that for the last 20 years.”

The cost of Phase II is estimated at around $67,100 and will be included in the 2020 budget that County Administrator Scott Feldt plans to introduce at next month’s County Board meeting. The board voted 19-0 with one absent to approve the expenditure.