Plan to redevelop GBCI could be lacking Senate support

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

ALLOUZE (WLUK) -- Off Riverside Drive in Allouez, sits the maximum-security prison, Green Bay Correctional Institution.

Nearly three months ago, State Rep. David Steffen introduced a proposal to close GBCI and build a new prison elsewhere.

"The problem with not acting now, is the delay is incredibly expensive," explained Steffen.

Steffen's proposal is expected to be taken up by the Joint Finance Committee this week.

However, he says it is lacking support from members of the State Senate.

"It's the Senate where it is much more dicey and a little more uncertain," said Steffen.

Steffen said Republican State Sen. Robert Cowles wants to do a study of all Wisconsin prisons to see if other prisons are dealing with the same over crowding issues as GBCI.

In a statement Cowles said "A study would look at the problem holistically." It went s on to say "GBCI, the maximum-security prison at Waupun and possibly a third facility likely need replacing."

Steffen said a study was done in 2009, he says it showed GBCI is in the worst condition.

"It reported that $142.4 million was required for GBCI, it also evaluated Waupun, the amount of money that facility needed to bring up to code was $9 million,"said Steffen.

Allouez Village President Jim Rafter says if Steffen's proposal is rejected, it could cost taxpayers more money because the facility is expensive to run.

"That one piece of property that GBCI sits on is a very valuable piece of property, and it's not generating any tax revenue," explained Rafter.

Rafter added redeveloping the land would generate about $80 million for the village.

"We are landlocked as everyone knows, 30% of our property is tax exempt, we have nowhere to grow, we have to redevelop," said Rafter.

Steffen said if the proposal is taken out of the budget it could be taken up as its own bill.

"There is an opportunity for it as a standalone piece of legislation to make its way through the process, the Assembly, Senate, and the Governor, that would take longer," explained Steffen.

Steffen added he is meeting with Senator Cowles this week, to talk more about his proposal.

Governor Walker's proposed budget includes $22.2 million for renovations to the current prison.

Kewaunee County has already expressed interest in housing a new prison.

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