Juvenile corrections facility would use city utilities
By Scott Bellile
The city of New London is working out a deal with state officials to supply city utilities for a proposed youth prison in the town of Hortonia.
The New London City Council on June 11 unanimously voted to authorize city officials to negotiate the installation of water and sewer services to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections’ planned juvenile corrections regional facility.
The city council acted under the assumption that the 7-acre, 32-bed facility will be built as planned on State Highway 15 south of the Frick Ford auto dealership near River Road.
However, the town of Hortonia is currently fighting the state to get the project moved to a different community, and several Republican state lawmakers wrote to the Joint Committee on Finance in April seeking a delay.
“Everything I am hearing, this thing is going to be put there no matter what happens,” Third District Alderman Mike Barrington said. “(The Department of Corrections has) already made their mind it’s going to be put there.”
DOC Secretary Kevin Carr told Hortonia residents at a meeting in April “there is no plan B” besides that property, which is owned by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
The state will have to annex the DOT’s property into the city of New London and pay for all costs related to the utilities project, the city council agreed.
Mayor Gary Henke told the city council he anticipates the utility extension costing the state $550,000.
“It would be on their dime, not on ours,” Henke said.
The council acted at the recommendation of the New London Board of Public Works. The board convened immediately before the council meeting to make a decision so that the state can stay on schedule for beginning construction next year.
The wastewater treatment plant’s revenue from the youth prison’s water and sewer usage could be equivalent to the utility bills of 30 new homes, Henke said during the board of public works meeting.
Annexation would provide other advantages to the city, Henke said.
“No. 1, (the city of New London is) pretty well blocked from any growth to the south by Hillshire Farm, and this would allow us to get beyond Hillshire Farm for future growth,” Henke said, referring to the meat company now known as Tyson Foods. “And there are properties out there that have indicated quite a few years ago that they are interested in annexing and would like to see sewer and water service out into that area.”
The water and sewer lines could serve homes or businesses in addition to the juvenile corrections facility, Henke said.
If the state were to choose not to annex, then the DOC would install a well and septic system on the property instead, and the city of New London would not capture utilities revenue.
First District Alderman Robert Besaw asked Henke if New London has always required outlying landowners to annex in order to receive city utility services.
“I think the only place that we have ever provided water to outside the city is Hillshire, and that was done 30, 40 years ago,” Henke said. “Hillshire does use some city water. They’ve got their own wells, but they do use some city water.”
The Wisconsin Department of Administration, whose Division of Facilities Development and Management is developing the youth prison, processes annexation requests.
Second District Alderman Fred Zaug asked what will happen if the town of Hortonia objects to the state’s request to annex the land into New London.
“The state makes a ruling,” Henke said. “Very seldom do you see any objection to annexation.”
Hortonia residents plan to hold a rally to protest the proposed youth prison on Saturday, June 15.