BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) -- Action 2 News learned Governor Tony Evers made more than one stop on his visit to northeast Wisconsin on Tuesday.
Green Bay Correctional Institution in Allouez (WBAY photo)
While in Green Bay to discuss the special session on gun violence legislation, he also met with local government leaders in Allouez to talk about the future of Green Bay Correctional Institution (GBCI).
“You can't have a conversation unless you start talking, and we started talking, and for that I'm very grateful,” said Allouez Village President Jim Rafter.
Rafter has been trying to get the governor to tour GBCI since Evers was elected almost a year ago.
The call was finally answered Tuesday, and Rafter says he and the governor were joined by Kevin Carr, Secretary of the Department of Corrections.
“We had a nice conversation. We made the ask, to ask him to close it [GBCI] and he smiled; but the reality is he sees a need for corrections reform in the state of Wisconsin. He believes GBCI as part of that conversation,” said Rafter.
Action 2 News has reported for years about the push from the village and local lawmakers to close the prison, use the land for mixed-use development or repair the facility.
Many lawmakers voiced disappointment after this year's state budget didn't include funding to build a new facility to replace the 121-year-old facility.
Rafter hopes the tour of GBCI will help the governor understand the village's needs, citing a tighter budget and increasing costs to fix infrastructure.
“We had $20 million in roads to improve in Alloue. We now have $26 to 30 million and they're the same roads. So, we need an influx in capital, we need a revenue stream,” said Rafter.
Rafter says redeveloping the property to mixed use could generate nearly $2 million in revenue for the village.
State Representative David Steffen (R-Green Bay) has been advocating for the closure of the prison for four years and says Tuesday’s visit is encouraging.
“I'm very hopeful that Governor Evers, with his visit today, is indicating his willingness to learn and understand all of the operational and functional and facility related challenges that exist out there; and to realize that we can find a better way to serve those inmates that are under our care, as well as, save the tax payers as much as $150 million with a new facility,” said Steffens.
Request for comment from Governor Evers’ office have not been returned, although his staff did confirm the visit.
Rafter said nothing about the future of the correctional facility was decided during Tuesday’s visit, but says this is not the end.
“I hope this conversation will lead to another conversation, which will lead to another conversation and hopefully we’ll get to where we need to be,” said Rafter.