Dodge County Board Votes To Close Old Jail, Rejects Expansion Plan

(Juneau) After much deliberation, the Dodge County Board Tuesday night voted in favor of closing the old jail house by years end and also against building an expansion onto the newer detention facility. The nearly 60-year old structure is plagued with issues stemming from outdated video equipment, jail code problems and rundown mechanical systems.

To address the issues, the sheriff’s office proposed a plan to add two new housing pods to the main jail. The plan would also give the jail enough space to continue its contract with U.S. Marshals and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to house detainees which brings in revenue to the county. Several supervisors raised concerns that closing the jail without a replacement plan in place would be a detriment to the county.

Multiple motions were made by board members which included postponing closure of the old jail house indefinitely, delaying the closure until March 1 and allowing the sheriff to develop an inmate relocation plan that would dictate when the jail would ultimately close – all of which failed. Other supervisors questioned why there was so much pushback considering the sheriff has stated that closing the jail by the end of this year is doable.

Sheriff Dale Schmidt says while closing the jail by December 31 is workable, postponing it until 2019 could have avoided a negative impact on this year’s budget and would have allowed his office the time to adjust to the lost revenue from immigration holds. Schmidt, who has always been in favor of closing the old jail, says his office will move forward to accomplish the task ahead of them. Schmidt says a direction was needed in order for the sheriff’s office to begin developing their 2019 budget which will then shed some light on the potential services that could be impacted. He says the goal is to not layoff any employees but noted that the county board could later determine that positions need to be cut.