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Pierce jail committee looks at potential sites

The Oct. 2 Pierce County Jail Ad Hoc planning committee meeting focused on sites for the jail’s new home. The sites discussed are in the village of Ellsworth as state statues require the Sheriff’s Department offices to be in the county seat. That’s important since the county is proceeding with a recommendation from a previous ad hoc committee that calls for the Sheriff’s Department and the Jail to be built in a stand-alone building.

The two sites that have been mentioned are east of the Blue Building and the property north of the Highway Department and Recycling Center along Hwy. 65.

The Blue Building location, or what county officials call the Grove Street properties, held four houses the county purchased in the last 10 years. Two of the houses were burned two years ago, while the other two are vacant.

Land Management Director Andy Pichotta told the committee the four lots represent about 2.6 acres with the Blue Building lot being an additional acre. Pichotta said a 28,000 square foot facility would need about half an acre. Size was one of the questions with that site as room for expansion is near the top of the county’s wish list. All other issues such as zoning or deed restrictions and access issues could be handled.

While the Grove Street properties have gained attention lately, the site along Hwy. 65 has been talked about for years. The only catch is a gas main runs through the 9.2 acre lot, and cost to move the main is reportedly around $500,000.

Officials also brought up two other county-owned properties in the village. To the east of the 9.2 acre lot were two plots of land, totalling almost 10 acres. While those sites offered a lot of potential, operational costs would skyrocket, as roads would have to be built.

The second property is the county woodlot, north of the new water tower. Pichotta described the 21.86 acre lot as relatively flat and all trees. Right next to the woodlot is the cemetery for the former “Poor Farm.” If that site would be pursued further, zoning restrictions would be a concern, county officials said.

And then, finally, as Committee Chair Jim Ross stated, “Everything needs to be explored,” he suggested taking a look at the parking lot next to the Pierce County Office Building. Expandability would be a concern along with relocating the parking lot.

Jason Schulte

Jason Schulte is a reporter for the New Richmond News since February 2015. Prior to that he spent eight years at the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth. His duties with the News will include covering news out of Hammond and Roberts along with action from St. Croix County court system. He lives in Roberts. 

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