The 2019-21 state budget passed by the Legislature last week includes $5 million in preliminary actions toward replacing the aging Green Bay Correctional Institution in Allouez. The new prison may or may not be located in Kewaunee County. 

Gov. Tony Evers did not include money for the new prison in the budget proposal he submitted last winter. The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee voted to add the dollars, which would be used for site acquisition, utility services to the prison site, and to seek requests for proposals to build the prison.

State Rep. David Steffen and Sen. Robert Cowles, who drafted the motion to add the expenditure to the budget, have said they intend to address the cost of actual construction during the 2021-23 state budget process.

During the June meeting, Kewaunee County Board Chairman Robert Weidner noted that the village of Luxemburg and city of Algoma have both expressed interest in the siting process. The two communities passed resolutions that said, in effect, that they’re interested in learning more but not necessarily interested in hosting the new prison.

“Most of the details are not worked out – such as what would be the compensation to local communities, how long would that compensation last, does it cover expenses incurred by fire, rescue and police services, so that’ll probably be a long process,” Weidner said. 

If Evers signs the budget without vetoing the prison dollars, the site selection could be wrapped up by the end of 2020, he said.

Steffen introduced a bill last session that would have stipulated the new prison be located either in Brown County or one of the counties adjacent to Brown, which includes Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Calumet, Outagamie, Shawano and Oconto.

The village of Allouez has expressed interest in redevelopment of the historic prison site, which is located on the southwest corner of the intersection of state Highway 172 and Webster Avenue. The prison opened in 1898.

GBCI has served the state of Wisconsin exceptionally well for more than a century, but it is in clear disrepair and needs to be replaced, Cowles said. 

The budget commitment “starts us down the path to replacing the antiquated GBCI with a new, state-of-the-art facility that will be safer for correctional officers, better for the rehabilitation of inmates, and more suited for the community,” Cowles said.

Weidner told supervisors he has heard some confusion between the very preliminary discussions of siting a state prison and the ongoing study of a new county law enforcement center that would include replacement of the woefully outdated Kewaunee County Jail.

“I’ve heard people say we don’t want a new prison when they mean jail, or we don’t want a new jail and they mean prison,” Weidner told the County Board. “It would help if everyone would sort of clarify what that means. They’re probably both going to be considered along the same time lines.”