Major Upgrade Proposed for Wisconsin Jail Complex

By CN Staff

WHITEHALL, Wis.—A new multi-million upgrade may be in the foreseeable future for the 38-year-old Trempealeau County Jail Complex in Whitehall, a town located between La Crosse and Eau Claire.

The county is still in discussion about the proposed new $40 million justice center.

The Trempealeau County jail can hold up to 24 inmates. However, for many years, the jail has been running out of room.

“We’ve been housing inmates out of county,” said Trempealeau County Sheriff Brett Semingson. “You know, the small spaces up there can lead to a higher propensity for injury.”

If approved, the new justice center would connect to the jail’s north wing and have 78 beds for inmates.

“We’ve had tuberculosis in our jail, and MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and influenza,” said Semingson. “And we’ve really been limited in how we can isolate affected inmates from one another, and COVID really exposed that.”

At present, security must move inmates from jail to court in a public hallway.

“We have had inmates take off from court and run out the front door before staff could apprehend them,” added Semingson. “The security of the new justice center really limits the possibility of that happening.”

Project Manager Kurt Berner, who is with The Samuel Group, a company based in Wausau, Wis., that provides preconstruction, construction, and design services, said, “The borrowing strategy that the county is considering would be a 20-year borrowing.”

He said the county has some debt to pay off. Therefore, taxpayers would not have to owe extra.

“They’ve really aligned themselves in a way that doesn’t have an impact in an increase to the taxpayers in regard to what the borrowing looks like.”

Semingson also added that extra security for both staff and inmates is too good of an opportunity to pass up.

“The list could go on about what this project can do to improve our services here in Trempealeau County.”

If the project is approved, construction will begin next spring and be completed by late 2022.