SPARTA—After nearly a decade of planning, the Monroe County Justice Center is complete. A dedication ceremony was held Friday at the new facility.
It was a historic event that few will forget, said Monroe County administrator Jim Bialecki. He said the project means a lot to the county and those involved in its construction.
“Keep in mind that it has been a long time getting here − I believe the planning stages have taken in excess of 10 years,” he said. “There were a lot of pros, there were a lot of cons, but ... they found their way to mitigate through everything to bring us out to this stage. Whether there were good decisions made or bad decisions made, I do know that what these people have given to this facility was profound, and they did their best to bring us to this day. Everyone can enjoy this new facility.”
J. David Rice, former Monroe County Circuit Court Judge and chairman of the building committee, said the Justice Center project has been through ups and downs, from being approved and dismantled in 2008 after a recall election to being restarted in 2009 after the new board was seated, choosing a new location via referendum, funding problems. Through it all, the result is a new facility for county law enforcement.
“There have been many problems, there have been delays and there have been cost overruns along the way, but I can assure you that today, if you haven’t taken the tour, we have a well-constructed building, 180 jail beds, sheriff’s offices, four new courtrooms and related offices for court staff, district attorney’s office and other court services that will serve Monroe County far into the future,” he said. “Despite the problems, I’m very happy to have been associated with this.”
While many people made significant contributions, a few needed to be singled out and recognized, Rice said.
One group Rice recognized was the members of the Monroe County Board of Supervisors from the past 10 years.
“Every board member represented and advocated a point of view, whether it was for or against the project. Their views were considered carefully by all board members, and in the end the board bit the bullet and voted to move forward,” Rice said. “There has never been a unanimous agreement on anything. Board members are always respectful, thoughtful and willing to make compromises.”
Rice also recognized the former board chairs from the past 10 years — Dennis Hubbard, who got the ball rolling; Rick Irwin, who kept the project moving after the recall election; Bruce Humphrey, who appointed Rice as chair of the building committee and worked full-time during the design phase; Jim Kuhn who favored the east side site but agreed to accept what the voters chose and worked daily to resolve construction problems; and Cedric Schnitzler, who brought the project to a conclusion.
He also thanked board vice chair Wally Habhegger, a former building inspector, for his insight into solving problems.
Project representative Kurt Marshaus was invaluable, Rice said; he doesn’t know what the county would have done without him.
“Each of these board chairs served practically full-time bringing this project to conclusion,” he said. “Their only compensation was the satisfaction of getting a job done that has needed doing for 30 years. There have been many former board members, state, county and city officials, staff members and members of the public who made valuable compensations − to name them all in the time I have would be impossible. Suffice it to say their efforts are appreciated, and they will be remembered by me always.”
Keynote speaker, Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack, said the facility is a modern marvel.
“It’s equipped with all the latest technologies, designed to improve the flow of workload, security for everyone and communications among all of those who play a part in administrating justice in Monroe County,” she said. “It makes a great deal of sense to bring all of those participants of the justice system of Monroe County into one building so they don’t have to run around looking for each other; they’re readily available for consultation.”
It was an expensive project, Roggensack said, but is shows the county’s dedication to a fair and fully functioning justice system.
Also at the ceremony Roggensack presented Rice with a commendation from the Wisconsin Supreme Court for outstanding service.
County board chair Cedric Schnitzler is pleased to see the project complete.
“It’s awesome, it’s exciting, and it’s a relief and I’m sure everybody will be happy that it’s finished and official,” he said.
State Rep. Lee Nerison, R-Wesby, agrees.
“It’s nice to see it finally happen,” he said. It has been a long time coming, they did a lot of starts and stops, and they finally got it through and got it together and got it done.”
Former county board supervisor and chair Jim Kuhn said it feels good to see the project finally finished, a project he once doubted would ever get done.
“If you would have asked me two years ago even, I’d have said we may never make it, but it’s here, we’ve done it,” he said.
State Rep. Nancy VanderMeer, R-Tomah, said the Justice Center will serve the county well.
“I think it’s an excellent addition for our community,” she said. “It’s something that, as we heard, it was a long time in coming. This is definitely a very special day because it really symbolizes how we can better serve the people in Monroe County, and this is one of the steps we can certainly take. I expect to see a lot of good things from the initiation of this marvelous project.”