Kewaunee County shows interest in new prison proposal

Outside Green Bay Correctional Institution in 2011. (WLUK/Don Steffens)

KEWAUNEE COUNTY (WLUK) -- As a proposal to close Green Bay Correctional Institution gains momentum, officials are looking at where a new facility should go.

At least one Kewaunee County official thinks it should be in his county.

"There is a lot of vacant farm land, large tracks of farm land that could possibly accommodate the prison," said Robert Weidner, the Kewaunee County Chairman.

Weidner explained Kewaunee County would be the perfect location for a new prison.

"If we find that we have good support from the elected officials and the public then we will aggressive seek the citing of the prison," said Weidner.

Weidner explained with the closer of the Domino Power plant, and the closing of Algoma Hardwoods later this year, the prison would help Kewaunee County's economy.

"The biggest benefit is the property tax, since it is a privately owned facility it would be subject to property tax," added Weidner.

He says early estimates show the county could bring in about $2 million each year if a new prison was built there.

However, Weidner says he has one concern. That concern is if the state buys the prison after the lease is up.

"That would negate property tax, but there is also a provision in the bill to provide a payment in lieu of taxes, but it is somewhat less defined as far as how long that payment would last," Weidner explained.

The bill to close Green Bay Correctional went before some lawmakers in Madison Tuesday.

Brown County Executive Troy Streckenbach was there and said closing the prison would open new economic avenues for Brown County.

"This is just a great opportunity for the village to revitalizes and develop some land that has been off the tax rolls for sometime," said Steckenbach.

Weidner says since the bill is in its early stages,the county will have to wait and see what lawmakers decide.

"We're not going to pass something up if we decide it's a good fit for us."

If the bill passes, it could take five years to close the current facility and build a new one.

Green Bay Correctional Institution has come under fire this past year after several inmate attacks on correctional officers.

The most recent attack happened May 13, when three correctional officers were taken to the hospital after an inmate attacked them.

Weidner said a new prison would make conditions safer for correctional officers.

If the bill passes, it could take five years to close the current facility and build a new one.

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