Commissioners put jail issue to a vote of the people
-By Sandy Bond
With so many unknowns, Walworth County Commissioner Duane Martin urged other commissioners Tuesday, Dec. 17, not to hurry into a decision on building a $4.5 million, 54-bed jail facility in Selby.
Changes have been made to the state’s criminal justice system and Martin said the commission should allow time to see how those changes affect Walworth County. He urged, as he has in the past, to postponing it for another year.
Commissioners had earliervoted to move forward with the plan to build an addition on to the existing jail, renovate part of the addition built in 1999 and demolish the more than 100- year-old original jail.
On Tuesday, they voted to bring the decision to build the facility to the people in the next election. Specifics will be developed and information will be given to the voting public prior to the election.
In a four-to-one vote, commissioners agreed that there was enough blame to go around, and reached an agreement with jailer Josh Nelson that a reprimand would remain on his record but his week’s back pay that had been taken away would be reinstated. Voting yes were commissioners Richard Godkin, Don Leff, Duane Martin, and Phylliss Pudwill with Denis Arbach voting no.
This reversed the Sheriff’s Department’s decision to suspend without pay jailer Nelson at the recommendation of jail supervisor Brian Rawstern. In Rawstern’s opinion, Nelson did not follow protocol when in the heat of an incident at the jail he tried with no avail to reach Rawstern and called in an “outside” law enforcement officer for assistance before putting the inmate in lock down. At the Dec. 3, meeting, Mohr produced a sample of a notice displayed in various sites at the jail to follow protocol and notify Head Jailer Rawstern or Chief Deputy Boll or Sheriff Duane Mohr. The incident reportedly happened in November. At their Nov. 17, meeting Nelson had appealed his suspension without pay. He had not been there to defend himself at the Dec. 3 meeting because, he said, he was unaware it was to be discussed. It was unfair, he said, that he did not get to defend himself in print.
In what he said was an attempt to gather reliable information required to make informed decisions to improve county road maintenance, once again, Martin made a motion that required daily logs from county road graders, county pickups and a monthly project schedule.
The logs, Martin said, would aid in making important changes that may improve road maintenance and reduce costs. Highway superintendent Penny Goetz has previously said it was unnecessary.
“It is estimated,” Martin said, “that every mile of county roads could be graded two or more times every month during the six months of summer; it is estimated that the annual cost of maintaining our country roads is near $600 per mile. The highway department came up with an average of closer to $200. ”
A roll call vote was requested by Martin with Martin and Godkin voting yes and Arbach, Pudwill and Leff voting against requiring the logs.
At the request of Auditor Rebecca Krein, David Schlosser with the Department of Legislative Audit, visited the auditor and treasurer’s offices the last week of November, Martin said.
According to the report, the treasurer’s office is very delinquent and Schlosser suggested that corrective action be considered immediately. He felt that the office needs to be brought up to current status so that the treasurer and staff could begin with balanced records. Because the office is delinquent and does not appear to be making any progress in becoming current, Schlosser suggested bringing in experienced outside temporary help as soon as possible. Former Dewey County Treasurer Kelli Mowrer, who has taken a hiatus from her position, is experienced, and recommended by former treasurer Chuck Hanson. Commissioners agreed to pay her mileage (from her home in White Horse, $.37 a mile- state rate) plus $25 per hour up to a cap of $7,500, starting in January. Perhaps Treasurer Greg Pudwill would agree to put in some extra time, Martin suggested.
After talking with commissioners at length emergency management director Adam Fiedler will remain in a part-time status with some flexibility in his hours.