MEENON––The jail has been a topic on many minds for the last year and the county will be enlisting the services of Kueny Architects and the architecture firm BWBR.
The study is set to cost $34,500 and will take 90 days to be completed.
The Burnett County Jail is consistently responsible for over 50 inmates. However, the jail was built in 1983 with only 26 beds. It is the entirety of the third floor of the Government Center in Meenon.
County Administrator Nate Ehalt said part of the idea of having the study done, “is to develop a plan for the next 100 years.”
Jail Administrator Mark Schmidt has been updating the public safety committee for over a year about housing inmates out of county. Barron, Bayfield and Polk Counties house a number of inmates and every time they have a court appearance.
Sheriff Tracy Finch said the jail is “outdated” and “extremely outdated.”
The study proposal from Kueny and BWBR outlined a number of inadequacies with the growing jail population.
Ehalt explained the county has worked with Kueny before on a number of projects at the Government Center
Some of the components the study will look into will be offender housing, intake, offender program and support functions (recreation, education and food service) as well as jail administration and sheriff’s department offices.
Other concerns brought up by the committee members was there is only one way to get to the jail and converting it to office space would take a lot of renovations to get the third floor ADA compliant.
Schmidt continued to say, “The dynamics of incarceration have changed completely over the years.”
He explained a number of inmates suffer from mental illness and some of it comes from people with extensive drug use.
“Some of them have mental illness and some have developed a mental illness from the drugs they were on for a number of years,” Schmidt said.
Finch added, “Our jail is basically a mental health facility for the county.”
Former sheriff Ron Wilhelm told the same committee last year, “Our jail is nothing more than housing for people with mental illness.”
Supervisor Gene Olson said the sheriff’s office will spend around $300,000 transporting inmates this year. He also urged the committee to be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to the jail.
Ehalt added that they are “nowhere near a groundbreaking date” and that this study is to start thinking about options for the jail over the next 100 years.
The study will need to be approved along with the fee by the Administration committee later this month.