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Seven-year itch: Time to move forward in Eau Claire County

By: Jan Basina//March 1, 2010//

Seven-year itch: Time to move forward in Eau Claire County

By: Jan Basina//March 1, 2010//

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By Jan Basina

Our national leaders aren’t the only politicians bogged down in a quagmire of bureaucratic indecision.

It can happen to local governments. And has.

Case in point: The building of a new jail or justice center — which would include a jail, courtrooms and offices — in Eau Claire County. The project has been studied and debated, and studied and debated, since 2002 — that’s when the formal review process began.

Second to none in size and scope, it’s the biggest construction undertaking — ever — in Eau Claire County. Estimates put the project at $58 million if building a jail next to the existing courthouse or $108 million to build a justice center at another location.

But recently a standoff has developed between the powers that be. Community leaders have aligned themselves on opposite sides of the bars, those wanting to build a jail next to the existing county courthouse and those opting for building a justice center at a remote site offices.

So I was heartened to read that the Eau Claire County Board, at its last meeting on Feb. 17, agreed to include an advisory referendum on the April 6 ballot. The referendum will allow voters to choose between two options (cost estimates won’t be included, but if you live in Eau Claire County, you know what they are):

* Option 1: Build a jail at the current downtown location.

* Option 2: Build a justice center at one of two locations (one in Altoona and the other in Town of Washington.)

In fact, Eau Claire County has set up an informational page on its Web site regarding the jail project.

Most everyone involved agrees a new jail is sorely needed. And a referendum might just be the motivation needed to end the stalemate.

Come on. Seven years? I say it’s time to end this deadlock and start the bidding.

Jan Basina is a date reporter with The Daily Reporter.


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