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CALEDONIA – Despite opposition from village residents, the Caledonia Village Board voted 5 to 2 Monday night to allow Racine County to build and operate a $42.5 million secure youth facility.

The county plans to build a 70,000 square-foot secure residential care center facility just south of Three Mile Road at the airport’s northeast corner on 29 acres. The facility will serve 48 youth awaiting court appearances until sentencing as well as those sentenced as an alternative to a correctional setting.

Racine County plans to operate the facility, but the Village of Caledonia had to change its conditional use plan, zoning conditions and conditional use requirements to allow for construction. Village Trustees Dale Stillman and Holly McManus voted against the project.

Dale Stillman
Holly McManus

“I would be remiss not to think about the fact that our county board of supervisors – the three that represent Caledonia – voted no for this project,” McManus said. “And I would also be remiss to not listen to my constituents who have repeatedly said over a couple of 100 times… they do not want this facility.”

Secure youth facility shifts focus to trauma-informed care

The new facility would provide a modern approach for treating juveniles in the criminal justice system. The plans include a school-like setting that would provide vocational training. A Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) grant would fund nearly all of the facility’s price tag. About $2.5 million would be financed with county-issued bonds.

Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave called the facility a “game-changer.” 

“This is a real chance for us to have zero detentions in Racine County… and it has the potential to stop our youth from going into the criminal justice system,” he said.

Once built, the youth facility would replace the county’s current youth detention center located on the fourth floor of the Dennis Kornwolf Service Center, 1717 Taylor Ave.

It would serve up to 48 youth from Racine County and seven other Southeastern Wisconsin counties (Kenosha, Walworth, Ozaukee, Waukesha, Rock and Jefferson). In addition, the new facility would house and serve youth from the region that is sent to the state Lincoln Hills youth prison. The (DOC) eventually plans to close that site.

Delagrave also mentioned that the new facility would help reduce the number of youth entering the prison system.

“We’re going to make sure that it’s something that can be proud of, that it’s going to be safe,” Delagrave said.

Officials outline the rationale for voting for the facility

Two of the Village Trustees — Fran Martin and Lee Wishau — said the decision to approve the project was not easy.

Village trustee Fran Martin wanted the conditional use agreement to limit other potential uses and keep the facility publicly owned and operated, not privatized. But more than that, she wanted to address the surrounding residents’ concern for public safety.

To address that concern, the Village Board required the County to pay $100,000 per year to the Village, which Martin wants to see pay for an additional police officer.

Village Trustee Lee Wishau agreed with Martin. He also pointed out that the Racine County Sheriff’s Office receives minimal calls for service at the facility.

“I met with the sheriff’s office,” he said. “They showed me the data for the number of calls they had at the current facility. It’s minimal… eight calls last year.”

What’s next?

Construction is expected to begin sometime in the late summer or early fall of 2022, and the building completed by early 2025.

Fran Martin
Lee Wishau

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.