New Baraboo city hall site chosen after safety concerns, decade of searching
Baraboo police Chief Mark Schauf said safety and privacy have been compromised for close quarters.
“We have a problem with the ability to have confidentiality. We also have a problem where we sometimes mix bad guys and good guys,” Schauf said.
The police department is housed in the same labyrinth of a building as all of the city offices and the fire department. The 50-year-old city hall building makes it time consuming for officers to get out on calls.
Schauf said when potential criminals are taken into custody for questioning, they’re often sitting in the same lobby where people come through to pay utility bills.
“We actually had somebody sitting in this chair who we had just arrested on a felony search warrant for drugs, and we walked a group of kindergartners through here to go do fire safety in the fire department out back,” Schauf said.
Schauf said a room right next to the lobby is sometimes used for questioning children and victims of crimes where conversations can be heard by others.
“We don’t have somewhere where they can go where it doesn’t look like they’re being interrogated,” Schauf said.
Schauf started seriously pushing for a new city hall space last year. Since then, the city has considered 17 different sites for a new building.
“It’s been a long road, actually, over 10 years to actually work on different site ideas and on different project ideas to finally make this happen and get to this point,” Baraboo City Administrator Ed Geick said.
Finally, the answer seems to be a lot on the corner of Lynn Street and South Boulevard. Geick said the initial plans for the new city hall building nearly triple the space from about 16,000 square feet to 41,000 square feet.
Geick said the location is at the gateway to the downtown area.
“It’s vacant and available,” Geick said.
Geick hopes a new city hall will spur on other development, like housing and restaurants, near the riverfront.
“There are some other sites that need to be cleared off and cleaned up yet,” Geick said. “And this is really going to be the first site of an economic development effort for the city in this Lynn Street area.”
Geick said the building will likely cost somewhere between $10 million and $15 million. He said a USDA loan will help keep payments low, but he’s not sure what it will mean for city taxes in the future.
The new building will include adequate space for public meetings, records and police equipment, as well as garages for squad cars. The fire department would likely remain in the older space.
“I am very excited, cautiously so. I’ll be much more excited the day the machines are down there digging a hole,” Schauf said.
Geick expects construction to start next year and is looking forward to moving in sometime in 2018.
“It feels, it’s a great relief, really, for everyone,” Geick said.