A study committee recommends moving ahead with the planning process for a new Kewaunee County jail, a development the County Board chairman met with extreme skepticism during last month’s board meeting.

The ad hoc Public Safety Facility Needs Assessment Study Committee last month carved $13 million off the estimated cost of a new Law Enforcement Center by removing new offices and other facilities, leaving the proposed new jail and 911 dispatch center.

The building would replace the obsolete, 50-year-old public safety building adjacent to the courthouse at an estimated cost of $21 million.

The committee is recommending that the County Board proceed with planning for the new facility at an estimated cost of $180,000. County Board Chairman Dan Olson told the board Dec. 15 that Sheriff Matt Joski would appear at the board’s Jan. 26 meeting prepared to answer questions, then proceeded to ask his own queries.

“The issue was raised that the board could approve the building of a jail but could not approve the funding for the operation of the jail,” Olson said. “I think that would be a little bit, in my opinion, nutty to approve building a jail if you don’t know if you have the money to run.”

He also questioned spending $180,000 on plans before building a jail has been approved in a referendum.

“This board will have to decide the order of things and how they want to proceed,” Olson said.

The last time a proposed new jail got this far along in the process was in 2000, when 14 supervisors were recalled over a $13.7 million justice center plan.

Consulting firm Venture Architects of Milwaukee was hired about two years ago to work with the county on its options for the old jail and safety building.

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