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Voters will choose site for Monroe Co. Justice Center

SPARTA, Wis. -- After about 20 years in the works, voters will finally decide where they want the new Monroe County Justice Center. The County Board decided to let residents choose the location through a referendum.

A plan to build a new Justice Center in Monroe County four years ago caused so much controversy, it launched a recall of multiple county board supervisors. Now, the county board is giving voters often.

Monroe Co. Sheriff Pete Quirin says it's about time the county took its first step toward building a new Justice Center.

"They're just old and antiquated is the best way to say it.... There's a lot of extensive repairs that really need to happen in that old jail. And we've been holding off from doing it," said Sheriff Quirin.

In April, voters will be faced with a choice: remodel and add on to the downtown Sparta location, or build a new site near the dog pound on the East side of the city.


The hope is that giving voters options as to where the center will go will help prevent the outrage caused by the last plan.

But not everyone was on the same page at Wednesday night's county board meeting.

Dan Olson is one of the five members who voted against putting the referendum on the ballot. That's because he wanted to see projected building and operating costs for both locations first.

"The bricks and mortar are one thing. That's just one part of the equation. How many additional staff members are we going to have to man this justice center?" said Olson.

He also says he wishes the price tag for each location would be included on the ballot.

"I would have preferred that something would have been put on the ballot itself specifying the operational costs as well as the building costs for each site. But according to state laws, as we've been told, a referendum can't be too wordy. It has to be Site A or Site B," said Olson.

Cost estimates for both locations will not be available until next month, even though the ballots will be finalized by the end of January.

The county board approved putting the referendum on the ballot with an 18 to 5 vote.

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