Dane Co. board approves additional $16M for jail consolidation project

MADISON, Wis. — After hours of debate Thursday night, the Dane County Board of Supervisors approved an additional $16 million to move ahead with the county’s jail consolidation plan.

Around 11:45 p.m. Thursday, supervisors voted 29-7 to increase the county’s 2022 budget by $16 million, citing a number of challenges the project has faced since the board approved $150 million to combine three current jail facilities into one.

“Recent market changes mean that the facility as currently designed will cost considerably more that [sic] the authorized budget,” a substitute resolution proposed by multiple supervisors read. “Given criminal justice system and jail management changes implemented in the pandemic environment, and the more narrowly focused goals of project, the project should be revised… to mitigate cost overruns.”

The substitute resolution calls for building a six-floor tower and renovating the Public Safety Building for a total of no more than 825 beds. It also calls for retaining the Ferris Center for Huber use while eliminating jail space at the City-County Building in downtown Madison.

The original proposal calls for building a new seven-story, 922-bed facility behind the Public Safety Building and closing the jail in the City-County Building and the Ferris Center.

Sheriff Kalvin Barrett, who has called the existing jail on the sixth and seventh floors of the City-County Building “inhumane and borderline unconstitutional,” praised the board’s decision Friday in an interview with News 3 Now.

“It was a great discussion last night and it really represents the best part of democracy,” he said. “Our meeting is a great representation to the entire state on what collaboration and compromise looks like when government officials and community officials get together to solve a problem.”

Last month, Board Chair Analise Eicher called on Barrett to consider a scaled-back option that called for building a four-story tower with minimal renovations at the Public Safety Building to rein in costs. Barrett said he didn’t have enough information to support the new idea and wasn’t ready to abandon the original proposal.

Weeks later, the county board postponed a vote on spending an additional $24 million to cover cost overruns for the initial proposal.