Kewaunee County sheriff wants new, safer Safety Building

KEWAUNEE, Wis. (WBAY) - The Kewaunee County Sheriff's office says it has been operating its safety building short-staffed for decades.

Kewaunee County Jail (WBAY photo)

Sheriff Matt Joski says the staffing situation in the Kewaunee County jail and dispatch center is far from ideal, but he hopes it will get better with a new, improved safety building.

Right now, deputies act as both dispatchers and jailers at the Kewaunee County Safety Building.

Sheriff Joski says in most sheriff's departments, those are treated as separate positions with at least two people working in each role at all times.

"You have a jailer that acts as a dispatcher and a dispatcher that acts as a jailer. That's problematic at best. And so we need to be brutally honest about how we're going to move forward in this generation," Joski said.

"That is multitasking to an entirely new level. You are taking two disciplines and putting them together in a single shift," he continued.

The sheriff's department is concerned that safety and response time in the county is being compromised because of the current facility and staffing.

Action 2 News reported in February the county hired a consultant to assess the facility and operations and advise what could be done differently. The sheriff hopes the end result is a new jail.

"We've gotten by very well over the decades to the point where, in some cases, specifically in the jail and communications center it's negligent," Sheriff Joski said.

"When you're working dispatch and there's and issue in the jail, there can be times where hours go by and you don't get a break or don't go to the restroom. Vice versa in the jail, there's times where the dispatcher needs help and you're unable to break away and help," he said.

Deputy Brent Reimer says changing the building's layout so that they don't need to transport inmates as much, and with fewer blindspots in the building, could make the workload more manageable.

"We work with what we got all the time," Reimer said, "so if we could eliminate this part of the job, it would definitely create more safety and a lot more time for the officers to do other duties."

Phase one of planning for a potential new jail is almost complete. If the county decides to continue, more concrete architectural plans for a new space will be created.