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County board approves temporary jail fix, holds off on $2 million permanent plan

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By Shereen Siewert

During a special session Thursday members of the Marathon County Board of Supervisors approved a roughly $585,000 temporary fix for structural issues at the jail, but declined to approve up to $2 million to fund a long-term solution to the problems that are plaguing the facility.

Contractors are currently repairing significant cracks and structural issues in an effort to stabilize the facility, said Marathon County Administrator Brad Karger. While the repairs are being completed, 55 inmates are being housed at out-of-county facilities while 25 inmates are on home monitoring, said Marathon County Chief Deputy Chad Billeb.

Structural issues, including significant cracks in floors, were first detected about five years ago, Karger said. At that time, the issues were not significant enough to require immediate attention. But a July 19 report revealed that significant snow loads and extreme temperatures intensified previously identified structural issues, prompting Karger to declare an emergency situation for safety reasons.

A “shoring up” process, the first phase for repairs, is underway, which required transferring prisoners elsewhere.

In a memo to board members, Karger called the jail situation a “moving target” and urged the board not to delay a decision on funding. In the memo, Karger said the county’s best estimate of a permanent repair is between $1.25-$2 million, which would be paid with working capital reserves. The county would then borrow to backfill the working capital reserve account.

Following the county’s procurement ordinance could cause a five-month delay, which Karger cautioned could result in a cost increase for additional inmate housing of about $325,000.

“We clearly have an emergency situation and a 5 month delay can only increase our risk to safety,” Karger’s memo states.

Board members approved funding the shoring process but are waiting for more information before making a final funding decision for all the necessary repairs.

“We took this route so that we could learn more about the problem and potential solutions and discuss this issue again at our next board meeting in two weeks,” said Dist. 1 Supervisor Katie Rosenberg, in a statement posted to Facebook. “The engineers will gather information as they work on the temporary shoring so that we have a better idea of what will be required.”

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