Debate continues over Monroe County Justice Center

Contractors give it a new price tag of about $33 million

The nearly two decade-long debate over a new Monroe County Justice Center takes another turn after the original price tag  increased by about $5 million.

Last year the Monroe County Board approved an estimated $25 million for a new Monroe County Justice Center. Now that all the numbers are finally in from the contractor, Monroe County is looking at a price tag of more than $33 million.  

It’s more than what they budgeted for, but the Sheriff said it’s time to put the debate into action.

Monroe County Sheriff Pete Quirin says it’s time for a change.

“Jailers, whereever they go, they carry keys around to open up doors,” said Quirin.

“The jail had the latest addition of about 20 beds in 1986. The sheriff at that time said the day they opened they filled it, so we have had a problem since the last time,” said Quirin.

Under current conditions, the Monroe County Jail can house about 55 inmates. But the sheriff says they are almost double that right now.

“We are using like four or five different county jails where we are farming prisoners out to. Vernon County is our largest one currently,” said James Kuhn, chair of the Monroe County Board of Supervisors.

“Last year we spent over $900,000 housing inmates out of county. We budgeted this year for $865,000 to house inmates out of county,” said Quirin.

The solution: a new Monroe County Justice Center.

“The board has approved the expenditure at this point of up to $25 million,” said Kuhn

But the contractor’s final numbers are showing a new price tag of more than $33 million.

“That’s the total cost of the total project. It includes the cost of the building, the cost for architectural fees, the cost of the property that was purchased, a contingency fund in case you have to make some change order, you have extra there to pay for it,” said Kuhn.

Although it will cost taxpayers more money, the sheriff says it will keep the money local.

“It personally bothers me as a Monroe County taxpayer that I am paying Juneau County, Vernon County and Chippewa County money to house inmates that we should be able to keep here,” said Quirin.

All 24 members of the Monroe County Board of Supervisors will vote next Wednesday on whether to go forward with a new facility or halt the project altogether. 

If the supervisors approve the bid, it will be up to the finance committee to recommend where to get the extra money from, but ultimately the project’s future will be the board’s decision.