Justice Center project tabled
By Kana Coonce
PORTAGE COUNTY – Following a decision by the Portage County Space and Properties Committee, the county Justice Center project has been tabled for the foreseeable future.
The May 9 meeting was held a week after the center’s proposed $180 million budget failed to pass the county board.
That motion received 14 of the 18 votes – or 75% of the board – it would have required to pass.
While a smaller affair than the Portage County Board meeting, the space and properties meeting was well-attended.
Joining the committee were various members of Portage County’s public sector and members of the public.
Addressing concerns over the quality of the building plans drafted by real estate consultant TEGRA, Supervisor Donald Jankowski said, “Over the last two years, we have done various RFPs (requests for proposals) to select contractors. The contractors were vetted, were interviewed through the process. The resulting contractors were taken to the county board for their approval. Nowhere was there a negative quote on the contractors that we brought forward. They carried unanimously. Those contractors are recognized individuals who have built multiple buildings like this throughout the upper Midwest. We talked to several contractors in the RFP process. The ones that we selected were chosen as a result of that process. It’s a process that is set up by the state as to how to do the RFPs. Again, no negative votes by the county board, so we had the contractors in place.”
After the committee heard out members of the public, Stevens Point Mayor Mike Wiza took the floor.
“Everybody at the county board seems to agree that something needs to be done,” he said. “I would agree that something needs to be done… The safety issues are paramount. I would hate to see this body and/or the county board knowing that the safety and security issue of the courts is so significant, but dismiss an entire selection of potential sites.
“I had a meeting with County Executive (John) Pavelski over the phone and conveyed that I feel that it’s so important that we review all of these locations (and) that I would be willing to ask the city council to fund another design phase using the county specifications to see if we can’t come up with something that not only works better in the downtown location than what we currently have, is more efficient, and in all likelihood is gonna be coming in in less than $900 a square foot.”
According to County Supervisor Mike Splinter, officially taking on Wiza’s proposal would violate Robert’s Rules of Order.
“The green space was voted to proceed with a majority vote… that means that the county board accepted the green space option, and that we were gonna move forward to the funding section of it after that. So until there’s a new county board in April 2024, that decision by the majority to build at the green space site still stands, so I don’t know why this even came back on here,” he said.
Regardless, without funding, the justice center project cannot move forward.
The committee agreed not to take action on the project at this time, effectively tabling it for an indefinite period of time.
Wiza said that he still plans to “explore all of the options” for the justice center’s future with the assistance of the city council.
However, these efforts will not find aid from the county.
“You do whatever you want,” County Supervisor Jeanne Dodge stated, “but it will be reviewed by our consultants.”