Following approval of a $76 million jail renovation project in the 2018 capital budget, the Dane County Board of Supervisors signed off on borrowing the required funding at a Thursday meeting.
The project, which will consolidate the county’s three jail facilities, will carry a total cost of $108 million over 20 years. The debt service is an estimated $5.4 million per year.
“This is a reasoned and cost-effective approach to updating our jail system that will save money over the long term as we continue to pursue more effective diversion strategies that enable us to shrink our jail population,” Dane County Board Chair Sharon Corrigan said in a statement.
Supervisors approved the project in November during a budget approval meeting frequently interrupted by dozens protesting the funding, leading Corrigan to call a second meeting. The project was adopted with contingencies including funding the Community Restorative Court, a mental health services review and crisis intervention training to the 911 Center and to staff at The Beacon, a new homeless day resource center.
Protesters also convened Thursday, calling to “derail the jail” and invest money for housing the homeless and mental health services. Fed up with the continued support of the jail project, Socialist Alternative and the Derail the Jail Coalition member Teddy Shibabaw challenged supervisors’ future elections.
“We’re going to widen and deepen our base to make sure your political futures are threatened because clearly all you’re going to respond to is a shift in a power dynamic,” Shibabaw said.
All 37 supervisors seats are up for reelection on April 3, but just five seats are contested.
Supervisor Heidi Wegleitner, District 2, proposed an amendment during the budget debate to pull the jail renovation project from the budget.
“I don’t think that this resolution, this authority to borrow at this point in time is a good reflection of the values of this board,” Wegleitner said. “This is a refusal to make tough decisions.”
Wegleitner and Supervisors Richard Kilmer, District 4; John Hendrick, District 6; and Carousel Bayrd, District 8, voted against authorizing the borrowing package, which passed on a 31-4 vote with two supervisors absent.
The jail renovation plan will consolidate the county’s three existing jail facilities — the sixth and seventh floor of the City-County Building, Ferris Center for Huber Inmates and Public Safety Building Jail — into one location by adding four floors to the Public Safety Building at 115 W. Doty St.
It will also reduce 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 by about 50 percent and bring the jail into compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act.
“If we take this out, we’re going to continue the status quo. There’s still going to be 40 people per day in solitary confinement,” Supervisor Paul Rusk, District 12, said.
Dane County Executive Joe Parisi also included $110,000 in his budget for the county to provide peer supported, re-entry case management service and an additional staff position in the sheriff’s office to coordinate the re-entry program. These services could include housing, employment, AODA, mental health and peer support counseling.
Borrowing for other major projects approved Thursday includes a $25 million upgrade to the Dane County Regional Airport, $8.5 million for the county landfill to create a pipeline to ship compressed natural gas statewide for use as motor fuel, $4.5 million to remove “legacy sediment” from waterways in an effort to keep phosphorus out of the lakes and $3 million for the county’s Affordable Housing Development Fund.