State considers sites for five juvenile facilities
By Scott Bellile
The town of Hortonia could become home to a juvenile correctional facility.
Gov. Scott Walker in March signed into law Act 185, which orders the state to close its two youth prisons in Irma, the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and the Copper Lake School for Girls.
The two facilities in recent years were the center of allegations of child abuse, neglect, staff assaults and mismanagement.
In their place, the state will open five smaller regional youth prisons throughout Wisconsin by 2021. This setup will allow juveniles to be placed closer to their families.
WLUK first reported that the Wisconsin Department of Corrections’ Juvenile Corrections Study Committee discussed possible sites including Hortonia during an Oct. 16 meeting.
The proposed 9.4-acre parcel is located southeast of the intersection of State Highway 15 and U.S. Highway 45. The site is just north of River Road and about a half-mile southeast of the Frick Ford car dealership.
According to a vote tabulation from the meeting, committee members ranked Hortonia as the No. 3 site, behind Union Grove and Milwaukee.
Other areas that the committee recommended to the DOC for further study include the town of Winchester (a parcel south of the U.S. 45 and State Highway 10 intersection), the general Fox Valley region, Chippewa Falls, Oregon and Delafield.
The committee voted to abandon several proposed sites: the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King, Tomah, Madison and the metropolitan areas of La Crosse, Eau Claire and Wausau.
Committee documents state that appropriate sites should be centralized relative to the inmates’ families; located near school districts, technical colleges, universities and industries; have a sizeable workforce to draw from; and possess adequate access to community resources and services.
According to committee documents, planners want to build correctional facilities that feel less institutional and more welcoming.
The committee discussed having 32 to 40 beds at each facility.
The Press Star contacted the DOC’s communications office, Outagamie County District Attorney Melinda Tempelis – who sits on the DOC Juvenile Corrections Study Committee – and Hortonia Town Chairman Bob Luedtke for comment on Wednesday, Nov. 21 but did not receive responses.
Local officials weigh in
The proposed site in Hortonia is located 1 mile south of New London and 4.5 miles west of Hortonville.
New London City Administrator Kent Hager said a juvenile correctional facility could have a major impact on the city.
“I am sure if the project is built here that it would be a great economic boost for the region, provide for some quality jobs and allow for some new families to locate here and in the region. We would welcome them all,” Hager said in an email. “The City would assist the state in any way we can to make their decision to locate here [an] easy one.”
Hortonville Village Administrator David DeTroye also pointed to the economic benefits, suggesting the positives outweigh the negatives.
“We feel it would be a secure facility, so as of right now there’s no concern,” DeTroye said.
One possible issue is Hortonia does not have its own police force, DeTroye said.
He suggested that perhaps New London Police Department would help patrol the area.
New London Police Chief Jeff Schlueter said he has to research further before commenting on how a state juvenile correctional facility just outside the city could impact NLPD.
The facility would likely be situated within the Outagamie County Sheriff’s Office’s jurisdiction, not NLPD’s.
However, if the property the DOC were to decide on immediately borders New London, then it could annex the land into the city and become part of NLPD’s jurisdiction.
If that were not the case, Schlueter noted NLPD assists neighboring municipalities when called for mutual aid. NLPD also has agreements in place to work with outside groups such as the Lake Winnebago Area Metropolitan Enforcement Group and county SWAT teams.
Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson said the proposal thus far is “far from a done deal,” and the state will make the ultimate decisions.
“[W]herever this is located I hope we take this opportunity to reform and reshape the way juvenile justice is done in our state,” Nelson said. “We need to throw away the old model, adopt new models, make common sense changes that will save money, get better results and make our communities safer.”