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WI: Clock is ticking for county to find housing for person listed on the registry

[ehextra.com – 5/26/21]

MARINETTE — Nothing has changed since about two weeks ago when Marinette County Administrator John Lefebvre told the Administrative Committee the county still has not found a place to house a person convicted of a Wisconsin Chapter 980 sex offense. If the county doesn’t find housing for that person by June 10, it could face monetary sanctions.

At Tuesday’s county board meeting, he said, “At the present time options for placement are limited to none. There are no good viable options.”

The county received notice Feb. 10 that a person (James _____, 52) from the Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center in Mauston, Wisconsin, will be released to Marinette County. That center houses people convicted of “Chapter 980” offenses, which according to state statutes are labeled “Sexually Violent Person Commitments.”

Wisconsin Chapter 980, which took effect in 1994, allows civil commitment and treatment for certain people after they complete criminal sentences. For many years after Chapter 980 took effect, people released have faced hurdles finding places to live. In 2017, Act 184 was adopted which required counties where the people were convicted to find suitable housing after they have completed their prison sentences.

The committee thought it had a potential location on Mudbrook Road, located at the border of the towns of Lake and Porterfield, but at its March meeting, the county board voted it down by an emphatic 28-2 margin. About 100 residents from that area attended the meeting — 16 of them spoke during public comment — and they convinced most supervisors to vote no.

Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison, on Tuesday, seemed to blame the board’s vote on media coverage.

“Just so everyone is aware, all the parties are aware, the county board opted not to fund the house because the news media was all over that,” she said. “Just an FYI.”

The EagleHerald ran one short story in advance of that board meeting. Residents of that neighborhood took it upon themselves, to organize, educate themselves, conduct meetings and contact the proper officials. The end result was a strong, powerful show of support before the full county board.

Lefebvre, on Tuesday, pointed out that when a property is labeled as a potential site, the sheriff’s office then investigates to make sure there are no families with children living on the adjoining properties.

They are trying desperately to meet the June 10 deadline to submit a plan to the state. If they don’t, the county could be fined $500 to $1,000 per day.

Lefebvre said if the county does not have a plan by June 10, it will continue the effort because the fines won’t stop.

“It’s each day that we could be assessed a penalty,” he said. “If we don’t have one by the 10th, we will try to get one by the 11th, then we’ll go to the 12th and the 13th. We will just continue on until we find a placement. This isn’t going away.”

Lefebvre said if the county does not show it is trying to find housing, “the state will not look kindly on that.”

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