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Sheriff: Please keep me in the loop about new jail

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news River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

ELLSWORTH -- Throughout 2013 meetings on whether and where to build a new Pierce County Jail, one important voice was largely absent.

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But at one of the first 2014 meetings last Wednesday, Jan. 15, Sheriff Nancy Hove spoke publicly several matters pertaining to the jail.

“I was asked to stay away from the first Ad Hoc so I wouldn’t taint the group,” Hove said, as the second Ad Hoc group held its final meeting. “But I feel we need to come together as a group to build a jail that is going to work for the Pierce County pocketbook and its employees.”

Hove, who said she owns two houses in the county, understands what an expense a new jail will mean for property taxpayers.

However, she felt she had to speak publicly because the cost issue has overwhelmed the debate.

“The first group did an excellent job, but freezing a certain number for square footage, I don’t understand it,” she said.

As a result, Hove believes important items are being eliminated due to the square footage limitations that could lead to safety flaws for a new county jail.

The first Ad Hoc committee recommended a 27,500-square-foot jail.

When Potter Lawson of the architect firm drew up a jail that was over 40,000 square feet, committee members, especially Jerry Kosin, ordered a jail redraw closer to the 27,500-square-foot figure.

Potter Lawson came back later with one for 32,500 square feet. That reduced floor plan seems to have smoothed the waters.

Another of Hove’s issues was that the 27,500-square-foot figure was decided by five people. Only one had worked in a jail -- Marvin Wilson -- the consultant hired by the first Ad Hoc committee.

“This jail is getting built by people who have never worked a day in the jail,” she said.

Hove replied, when asked, that her favorite sites for the new facility would be south of the Ellsworth gas main, and northwest of the solid waste department and the county forest. 

Hove asked there be more of a team approach as the process moves forward.

She brought up two problems -- 1) Not being told when Ad Hoc meetings were held, and 2) What would be on meeting agendas.

Hove said she had no idea last Wednesday’s meeting was occurring until being told by others. She was noticeably upset during last week’s meeting as she wasn’t given a copy of the final jail report.

Kosin shot back about the meeting notice claim, saying: “You’re an employee of the courthouse. You can easily walk up to the board outside administration and check when meeting notices are.”

Said Hove: “I’m an elected official just like you, and you ask for copies of agendas before all meetings. Shouldn’t I deserve the same right?” 

Committee Chairman Jim Ross ended the exchange by apologizing for his committee’s lack of efforts in notifying Hove.

He pledged to Hove that if he’s a member of the next Ad Hoc committee, there will be better communications on the jail issue.

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