Lincoln Hills closure delayed, 7 Investigates reveals prototype plans for new facilities

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MADISON, Wis. (WSAW) -- Governor Tony Evers said plans to close Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake Schools are delayed because it will take longer to build the new facilities than legislators originally hoped when they passed ACT 185 last year. Along with this announcement, 7 Investigates is getting a look at prototype plans for the new facilities.

"I appreciate the legislature and legislators concern about this in passing AB 185, but the fact of the matter is in the rush to solve the problem, they didn't take into account how long it takes to be able to build facilities and design facilities and that is going to set us back at least a year," Gov. Evers said.

Gov. Evers was on the committee working to come up with plans for the new regional facilities to replace Lincoln Hills last year. He told reporters Tuesday morning, pushing back the plans to close Lincoln Hills and relocate juveniles is not ideal, but they have no choice.

"We hope to be able to get grant proposals out to the counties so that they know what's expected of successful grantees," he said.

He explained the money for the facilities will be in this year's budget and the legislature will create a new bill to correct the timeline on the projects. The budget will also address staffing issues, not only by adding more staff, but increasing staff pay across all correction facilities.

"What we're going to do in the meantime is we're going to follow the monitor's recommendations, but also making sure that the people that work there have the appropriate training and skill level and, frankly, not having to work two or three double shifts a week. And all of those things are a recipe for disaster, so we're looking to change all of those things," he said.

7 Investigates obtained planning documents showing prototypes for facilities and possible locations. The documents state the site has to have at least seven acres of land: one for just the building, two for the recreation yard, and other four acres are allocated for things like parking, loading, and a buffer zone.

Each of the roughly 45,000 square foot facilities will house about 32 juveniles. The estimated cost to make these facilities a reality range between nearly $27-$30 million. The documents explained that building off of existing buildings could cut costs.

According to votes in the Juvenile Corrections Study Committee, the areas with the highest recommendation to place facilities are Hortonia near WI-15 and US-45, Appleton, Green Bay, Milwaukee off of Mill Road, the Southern Wisconsin Center in Union Grove, and the former Ethan Allen School in Wales. Gov. Evers said sites are currently being evaluated.

The Wausau area was the only site in the NewsChannel 7 viewing area up for votes and it was voted as an unfavorable site.