The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Residents oppose courthouse expansion plans

Opponents of the proposal to expand the Eau Claire County Courthouse and Law Enforcement Center met April 13 to discuss a possible campaign against the project. They left with petitions in hand, on which they hope to collect 1,000 signatures against the project from residents across the county.

“If we do nothing, we are approving this plan,” said meeting organizer Jeff DeGrave, an associate lecturer of geography and anthropology at UW-Eau Claire.

The county’s plan, which has yet to be approved by the County Board, calls for the facility to be expanded on both sides of the current building, spanning First to Third avenues between Lake Street and Grand Avenue. It doesn’t call for displacing the businesses on Grand Avenue. The projected cost is between $55 million and $65 million.

The plan also would call for the demolition of 18 housing properties in the area, a fact that would affect an unknown number of Eau Claire student rental properties and “exacerbate the housing problem around campus,” DeGrave said.

Story continues below advertisement

“I’m concerned about the demolition of houses, especially since this neighborhood is improving,” said neighborhood resident Monty Ernst, adding the area is a “central core” of the city.

However, Eau Claire County Director of Planning and Development Mel Erickson said he sees no alternative because the current facility is no longer functional.

Erickson cited inadequate space for city and county law enforcement, jail overcrowding and safety as pressing factors that need to be tackled soon.

He said the current jail was designed to hold 50 prisoners, but currently holds 300 jail beds. In addition, he said the courthouse itself needs to be more secure as the facility has nine separate entrances, only a couple of which are monitored with cameras.

Foes of the expansion say overcrowding is best solved by prevention and rehabilitation programs, rather than a “if you build it, they will fill it” mentality.

DeGrave and others also pointed to the jail’s proximity to campus as well as Owen Park and the Chippewa River Trail, which are frequented by students.

“Remember, this thing is going to be clear down to the trail,” Randall Park resident and Eau Claire organic chemistry professor David Lewis said. “(This) means all the girls running down the trail are going to be subject to catcalls.”

DeGrave, who lives on the first block of Lake Street, said even the aesthetics of the facility will damage the neighborhood.

“We like to have a neighborhood,” he said. “We like having neighbors as opposed to a big jail across from our house.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

The Spectator intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. The Spectator does not allow anonymous comments and requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
All The Spectator Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activate Search
Residents oppose courthouse expansion plans