By Jacob Mathias
A close vote of 14-11 during a Portage County Board meeting on Tuesday approved a resolution that the location for a new county government building shall be in the downtown location of Stevens Point.
The resolution only established a location for a county government building and no new construction or site plan has been approved.
“The site has room for expansion. It keeps all operations together,” said Don Jankowski, chairman of the Space and Properties Committee. “We can then start to look at how we can re-purpose the existing buildings at this site.”
“The next step, I hope, is that Space and Properties needs to define the parameter they’re going to put around what is downtown,” said County Board Chairman Phil Idsvoog. “I just hope we don’t wake up 30 years from now saying, ‘We have nowhere to go.'”
The county’s Space and Properties Committee recommended the downtown location out of three options proposed by Milwaukee-based Venture Architects for a what’s been billed as a new “county government facility.” Other options included a “do nothing” option which would include a $14 million remodel and a new remote site for which a location was not determined.
Construction for the downtown option is currently estimated at $85 million by Venture Architects.
The county has passed resolutions related to a new jail before. In 2002, Board Supervisors passed a resolution establishing that a future jail should be physically connected to the courthouse. In 2013, they passed another resolution establishing a new county courthouse and jail as a priority for future planning and construction.
Supervisors also included the priority in the Portage County Strategic Plan, which was updated in 2013.
County leaders rejected the “do nothing” remodel option because it doesn’t allow for the courts and jail to reside in the same building, and allows no room for expansion. Remodeling existing facilities also had drawbacks, Jankowski said, and would require additional costs related to temporarily transferring inmates to outside counties during construction.
The county already transfers some inmates to nearby counties due to lack of space. According to Jail Capt. Corey Nelson, about $8.3 million has been spent on housing and transportation since 1999.
County Board Supervisor James Gifford asked to postpone and movement on the resolution to allow time for supervisors to conduct further research and ask more questions. His motion failed after several others pointed out the issue had already been “thoroughly” discussed by various county committees as well as the board itself.
More information on how a downtown facility might be constructed can be found here.
The next County Board of Supervisors meeting is June 16 at 5 PM.