Dane County Public Safety Building exterior (copy)

The Dane County Jail spans three buildings that include the Public Safety Building, 115 W. Doty St.; the sixth and seventh floors of the City-County Building, 210 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd; and the Ferris Center on Madison's south side. 

Dane County Board of Supervisors approved two contracts related to the major jail consolidation project Thursday over concerns that one needs more vetting.

Board supervisors approved a $1.36 million contract with Milwaukee-based Gilbane Building Company for construction services and a $4.49 million contract to Mead & Hunt, based in Middleton, for architectural and engineering design services.

“What this does is start the initial design process,” Supervisor Paul Nelson, District 9, said. “It gets the actual project moving forward with a construction manager and Mead & Hunt as the lead contractor on engineering and architecture.”

Supervisor Heidi Wegleitner, District 6, who opposed the jail consolidation project in the 2018 budget, moved to refer the architectural and engineering design contract back to the Public Works and Transportation Committee. Wegleitner said the county should approve a contract for a mental health study before securing design services.

“I think it’s important we move forward with the mental health study and get the insights of the mental health study to understand what types of services can be expanded, created, provided and improved to divert more people from jail,” Wegleitner said.

The $76 million renovation project is included in the county’s 2018 budget and will eventually consolidate the Dane County Jail’s three facilities under one roof. Plans include closing two floors in the City-County Building and the Ferris Center for Huber Inmates while adding four floors to the Public Safety Building at 115 W. Doty St.

The renovation would also decrease the number of jail beds by 91, minimize the use of solitary confinement cells, provide separate space for 17-year-old inmates, increase programming space and bring the jail into compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act.

Some supervisors felt the design contract had not been thoroughly discussed due to Mead & Hunt’s absence from the committee meeting during which it was approved.

“This is a very big decision on the biggest public works project in the history of Dane County government,” Supervisor Tim Kiefer, District 25, said, holding up three pages of unanswered questions.

The motion to refer failed on a 28-8 vote. Wegleitner voted against both contracts.

Supervisor Dorothy Krause, District 27, favored referral and said committees need to work closely with Mead & Hunt to ensure the consultants have a clear vision of what the county wants.

“We need to help guide them in what we want, and I would really really strongly caution the public works committee to be sure that we’re thumbs down on making sure they are going the direction that we want this to go,” Krause said.

Opponents of the project have strongly protested the project leading up to the county’s budget approval meeting at the end of November. Nelson said there were no public speakers on the contracts when the Public Works & Transportation Committee voted May 8.

“Once the decision was made to put it into the budget, that’s something you just can’t undo,” Nelson said. “The project is moving forward.”

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