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Committee eliminates two jail sites

Two of the six proposed sites for a new Pierce County Jail were eliminated by the Ad Hoc Jail Planning and Specifications Development Committee Wednesday. 

With relative ease and limited discussion, the Pierce County Office Building (PCOB) parking lot and the site north of the gas line on Hwy. 65 were voted down. Negatives for the PCOB lot was it having to be a multi-story building due to space availability, and therefore increased construction and operating costs. The gas line site was rejected due to limited room for expansion, having to deal with the gas line and accessibility.

Committee Member Mike Kahlow made the motion to eliminate the Grove Street location, which set off a lengthy discussion over the 80-minute meeting.

His request was seconded by Neil Gulbranson, who didn’t like the location due to its limited space for expandability and it would have to be rezoned. Kahlow was also concerned the Blue Building would have to be relocated if the Grove Street location was the choice. The front half of the Blue Building is used by nearly all county departments for storage, while the back is storage for the sheriff’s department.

Gulbranson, who also sits on the Ellsworth Village Board, was asked about the village’s opinion about the jail search. While stating he wasn’t speaking for his six fellow board members, the general perception he said was the jail was going to be built along Hwy. 65, which is why board members were surprised when the county bought all those houses east of the Blue Building.

Member Brian O’Connell stated he wasn’t ready to eliminate that option and Member Scott Bjork was as well, stating the Blue Building might not have to be moved, along with feeling uncomfortable eliminating a site which is close to the courthouse.

Committee Chairman Jon Aubart agreed with O’Connell and Bjork, and the Grove Street option remained on the list.

The other three locations are south of the pipeline, the property close to the highway and solid waste departments, and the demonstration forest.

The other significant news to come out of Wednesday’s meeting was an operations study done by Potter Lawson in which their results showed the county could have the same level of staffing for a 70-80 bed jail as a 50-bed jail.

A 70-80 bed jail would mean Pierce County would no longer have to house inmates elsewhere as they do currently in Pepin (Durand) and Dunn (Menomonie), which would save the county at least $240,000.

The county had been operating on a 50-bed jail for months, so committee members said plans will be needed to see how a 70-bed facility would now fit into the four locations.

The committee set its next meeting for 3 p.m, Tuesday, Sept. 16.

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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