WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Lee County Jail Expansion Possible

Mar 28, 2012

The Lee County Board of Supervisors says it needs more information before signing off on an expansion of the Lee County Correctional Center.

The panel hopes to obtain that information from Midwest Construction Consultants.

The Houghton-based firm oversaw the renovation and expansion of the jail that was completed just a couple years ago.

The board has agreed to pay MCC up to $2,500 to study the need for additional cells and to develop a proposal that includes usage, costs, and timeline.

The expansion is needed much earlier than previously estimated because of a spike in the female population at the jail.

Sheriff Jim Sholl says the current tally is 14 women in the jail, which is currently designed for 12.  He says that means one or two women must be housed in a section set aside for more than ten men, which leads to further population issues.

Supervisor Larry Kruse believes the county can avoid borrowing money to pay for the expansion by using money from the maintenance department’s budget. 

He says the study should determine whether the jail should be expanded to its full capacity of 144 or to a smaller number so future expansions are also possible.

Kruse says supporters had hoped an expansion would not be needed for at least ten years.

It was August 2007 when Lee County voters approved a $6-million bond referendum for the jail expansion and renovation.