Finance Committee hears jail presentation, approves short-term borrowing

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A potential design for a new Crawford County Jail was unveiled to the Finance Committee at the Joint Finance/Public Property Meeting on Nov. 8. (Printed with permission from Klein McCarthy Architects)

Concept budget for jail, including costs, design plans reviewed in joint meeting


By Steve Van Kooten


The Crawford County Jail is like a honeycomb; it’s a series of compartments with sections sequestered around blind corners, through corridors and doorways and divided into pods that Russell Wittrig, the Jail Administrator, said was designed to hold people and did not address the county’s needs as time has pressed on. Times have changed, so Crawford County and the State of Wisconsin have determined the jail has to change with it.

At a Nov. 8 joint meeting for the Crawford County Finance and Public Property Committees, members heard a presentation to outline a prospective design and budget for a new jail facility. Scott Fettig, President of Klein McCarthy Architects; Erik Daniels, prospective Project Manager; Greg Callin, Vice President of Client Services for Kraemer Brothers Construction; Ryan Fuhrmann, Kraemer Brothers Planning and Productivity Manager; and Tom Weber, Just Us Services Consultant, were on hand for the presentation to the committees.

The Finance Committee approved a recommendation to the County Board for the design and budget as presented. A presentation was scheduled for Nov. 14 for the County Board Meeting and Gary Koch, Finance Committee Chair, stated the jail would be on the agenda at the board’s Dec. 19 meeting.



On June 1, McCarthy Architects conducted a facility evaluation for the existing jail and Sheriff’s Office building. Fettig noted McCarthy had been working on the project for nearly six months, which was typical for a project of the jail’s size and scope.

“Our engineers and our team walked through the entire complex to evaluate all the components,” Daniels said. The results were an assessment of the existing Law Enforcement Center (LEC) and recommendations for site improvements to consider in construction and remodeling.

The assessment found the existing space would be suitable for a Sheriff’s Office and the boilers, air handling units and furnace were above average for their age and use. Additionally, the mechanical structure, such as duct work and piping, were in average condition, again considering age and use on the site. 

The assessment stated the jail was inefficient for its intended use and did not meet security needs. The plumbing systems were assessed as past life expectancy and showed wear. Daniels noted the plumbing would require “significant upgrades.” He also stated vertical expansion of the current building was infeasible because the exterior walls weren’t likely able to bear additional weight.

Recommendations from the evaluation, compiled through a Comprehensive Facility Assessment and Feasibility Study, suggested the current building be renovated for office functions and the construction of a new jail. A report from Weber, which accounted for inmate projects and considered trends for 20-30 years in the future to make a Space Program, determined a 42 bed count for the facility with the ability to expand for 34 more beds as needs required. The facility’s total capacity would be 76 inmates.

On Oct. 3, the Space Program had been reviewed and by Oct. 21, the jail concept and designs were reviewed for presentation to the Finance Committee.



Three options were explored on the county’s property where the Crawford County Courthouse, Sheriff’s Office, Jail and Prairie du Chien Police Department currently reside.

“What we were trying to do is stay on the property that you [Crawford County] own and look at solutions that way,” Fettig said.

An option to expand on the northeast section of the property reduced parking lot capacity and had excessive cost expenditures. Fettig stated the idea  wasn’t functional and would “cost more in operations than it would be worth to build there.”

The second possibility was the construction on the southeast corner of the property; however, it led to logistical issues and space inefficiency because of its relative position to the front of the courthouse and the need for a more complex elevator system.

The southwest corner had comparatively favorable conditions; it was easier to connect to the Sheriff’s Office and direct routing for inmate transportation. A skywalk would provide the connection from the jail to the Sheriff’s Office. Fettig also said it would provide more security than the current layout. The plan would require the relocation of the Veterans Memorial to the southeast corner of the property. Fettig noted the memorial would be made “more prominent” in the move.

“Our designers have come up with a scheme that blends both the existing LEC and courthouse to the new jail using motifs and colors of the existing roof,” Daniels said. He also said exterior plans had green area in front of the courthouse as well as a plaza. The proposed jail facility was designed to be shorter than the existing courthouse.


“It’s very early,” Callin said. “We’ve got the basic program elements that we understand and we know the intent of the design and where it’s going.” Callin introduced a breakdown of the proposed budget, which still had variables and projections utilized. Therefore, the project was given estimated budgets within calculated ranges.

Callin stated historical square footage costs from other, similar projects were considered in cost assessments. Two recent projects were jails done in Iowa County, bid in January 2020 with construction completed in November 2021, and Burnett County, bid in May 2022 with construction recently completed. Values were then adjusted with a Construction Cost Index to account for inflation and other factors. Callin noted costs were up 33 percent since Iowa County’s construction but only 6 percent from Burnett’s construction costs. “We are seeing a lot of flattening costs, which is a good thing from your perspective.”

The square footage of Crawford County’s project was 22,970 for the remodel of the current Sheriff’s Office building and 38,696 for the new addition to serve as the jail. The total square footage was 61,666. The remodel footage was a significant difference from Iowa County’s project, an all-new structure, and Burnett County, which only had 10,000 sq. ft. of remodeled space.

The estimated budget had two categories: construction costs and soft costs. 

Construction costs had a range of $24.4-27.4 million and included site development ($800,000-1.3 million in budget), $2.7-3.8 million for the remodel and $19.4-20.3 million for the new addition. Contingency costs were also accounted for. Soft costs included building plan reviews, plumbing reviews, permits, inspections and insurance among several other costs. These items were not budgeted by line; instead, Kraemer Brothers estimated a percentage of the total project, which ranged from $2.3-3.2 million. The project’s total concept budget ranged from $26.7-30.6 million dollars.



If the project is approved by the County Board, a tentative start for construction on the new structure was slated on Aug. 1, 2024. Fuhrmann and Callin estimated between 19-20 months for construction, which projected an end date for May 2026.

After the addition, a waiting period for inspections and other processes would happen. Callin noted “anywhere from 60-120 days” and said Burnett County estimated 12 weeks to complete the inspection processes.

From that point, the remodel of the current structure would ensue once the new facility was determined to be usable.


Other News:

-The Finance Committee approved rates and terms for a $500,000 short-term loan. Four banks were contacted and two, People’s State Bank and Royal Bank returned bids. The People’s State Bank loan with a 1.95 percent interest rate and no pre-payment penalties was chosen. Further, the committee approved an authorization for the short-term borrowing of $500,000 after approving the bid from People’s State Bank. The terms and loan amount were pushed to the County Board for approval.

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