Local leaders discuss plans for new Green Bay Correctional Institution
ALLOUEZ (WLUK) -- If a state lawmaker gets his way, the Green Bay state prison in Allouez will close and a privately-owned prison will take its place somewhere else.
Republican State Representative David Steffen says it makes more sense financially to tear the prison down than maintain the facility, but other lawmakers say that process will take years and steps can be taken now to address safety at the prison.
Rep. Steffen says he is introducing his plan to shut down the prison to the state Legislature this week.
The Village of Allouez says closing the facility would open the land for redevelopment.
"We could bring businesses and residents and a community that the community of Allouez has been asking for a long time." said Village of Allouez president, Jim Rafter.
Under Steffen's plan, a private company would build the new prison then the state would lease the building and run it.
"As we've all seen, the governor is committed to keeping our bonding rates low, well how do you ever get past that if you have to bond for a new expensive prison? Well, the option is to lease," Steffen's explained.
Steffen says leasing the prison would cost about $15 million a year, compared to the $19 million a year it would cost to maintain the current facility.
"We go brand new, better technology, safer, out of Allouez, $15 million, so someone try to explain to me why this isn't in the best interest of the state of Wisconsin?" Steffen said.
Governor Scott Walker's two year budget proposals includes $22.2 million for renovations to the current prison, something Steffen says could be saved under this plan.
"It'll become more expensive and more difficult the longer we wait," Steffen said.
At an event in De Pere Monday, the governor said he needed take a closer look at the numbers-- but said he wasn't opposed to Steffen's idea.
"If the site was going to be sold eventually, and there was going to be development put on, we'd have to make certain that that would offset the cost of building a new structure and I think that is possible," Walker said.
However, State Senator Dave Hansen has concerns. In a statement he said:
"While there might be an argument to be made for replacing the prison, doing so could take years at a time when we have more immediate concerns that need to be addressed to make the current prison safer. That means addressing overtime, making sure that we’re hiring the best officers possible and giving officers and staff a seat at the table when it comes to making decisions about workplace safety.”
The proposal is still in the early stages.
Right now there is no set location for a new a prison.
If approved, Steffen has stated closing the prison and opening another could take up to five years.
The Green Bay Correctional Institution has been in operation since 1898 and is home to 1,094 prisoners.