SPARTA, Wis. (WXOW) - It’s a project two decades in the making, and on Wednesday, the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Monroe County Justice Center was held in downtown Sparta.
“This is probably the most important building project in this county since 1896 when the current courthouse was built,” said Judge David Rice of the Monroe County Circuit Court. “And it really represents a demonstration of the faith of the community in our future.”
The new Justice Center will be 106,000 square feet, around 90,000 square feet bigger than the current courthouse. It will feature an expanded jail able to hold 180 inmates, three new courtrooms and an expansion courtroom that will not be fully outfitted, and numerous offices. Judge Rice said the project has grown considerably through the years.
“The idea for a new facility here started about twenty years ago,” said Judge Rice. “At first it was just a new jail or an extension to the jail. Eventually it was realized that the courthouse was not going to be adequate either.”
Judge Rice said there were two major roadblocks that made planning the new Justice Center take such a long time. First, there was a lot of disagreement on where it should be built. And second, they needed to find the money to build it. But he never lost hope that someday it would become a reality.
“I was always a believer this day would come,” said Judge Rice. “People told me that ‘it’ll never get done’ but there’s nothing that has more power than and idea who’s time has come.”
And now, with those roadblocks behind them, Judge Rice said Monroe County took a huge step forward.
“Who knows how things are going to grow but the courthouse we have now lasted for almost 120 years,” said Judge Rice. “If we get even half that out of the new facility it will be money well spent.”
The Justice Center should be completed in around two years’ time and will cost around $33 million dollars.
The first part of the project entails knocking down a building to start construction on the new jail. This has to be completed first because the current jail needs to be torn down to make room for other parts of the project.