Not much local interest in new prison

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By: 

Times Herald Staff

It does not appear Oconto County communities are jumping at the chance to be the site of a new state prison to replace the aging Green Bay Correctional Institution.

A bill introduced by state Rep. David Steffen, R-Howard, calls for the prison to be sold and a new, 1,300-bed prison to be built either in Brown County or an adjacent county by 2022.

Steffen proposes to have a private contractor build and own the facility, leasing it back to the state to operate. As a privately owned facility, it would be subject to property taxes.

A spokesperson for Steffen said Friday that municipal officials in Oconto County haven’t been able to locate a parcel with the 50 or more acres required to make the project feasible.

County Administrator Kevin Hamann noted that Oconto was one of the finalists to build a supermax prison 20 years ago. The facility was eventually built in Boscobel, and Hamann said he’s heard no rumblings of interest from local officials this time around.

Nor would the county be tempted by Steffen’s bill for the approximately 100 beds the prison might include for local inmates. The new, 175-bed Oconto County Jail will be dedicated June 22.

Public speculation has focused on Kewaunee County, which is coping with the loss of revenues as the result of the 2013 closure of the Kewaunee Power Station nuclear plant.