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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Mudbrook Road Site Rejected For Placement Of Sex Offender

Issue Date: March 31, 2021

A 28 to 2 vote of Marinette County Board to reject a proposal that would have provided a home for a 980 Sex offender in a quiet rural residential area on Mudbrook Road near the Lake/Porterfield town line was greeted with cheers and joyful tears from the approximately 100 people who had come to the meeting on Tuesday, March 30 in hopes of achieving that outcome.

â€It is unfair to deny the innocent their right to feel safe on a daily basis in order to satisfy the needs of a convicted criminal,†Town of Porterfield resident Kris Brooks declared during his turn at the podium as one of 17 speakers during the time for public comment. He echoed sentiments most of them expressed when he continued, â€I encourage you to please consider an alternate location that would still meet the regulations on residency restrictions while not compromising the safety and altering the lifestyles of the families that already live in this area.â€

A majority of the speakers, limited to five minutes each, stressed the family atmosphere of their neighborhood, proximity to recreational trails and the popular swimming area at the Black Bridge over the Peshtigo River, and freedom for youngsters to safely play outdoors without extensive supervision.

Several of the speakers criticized lack of openness and lack of communication with the public while the search for a 980 residence was going on, as did many County Board members, who said they were not aware of the implications of â€980†until they read about it in the Peshtigo Times. Until the final recommendation, discussions took place in closed executive sessions with â€980†listed as the subject.

Membership on the 980 Committee is set by state law based on position. Members of the Marinette County 980 Committee are John Lefebvre, Gale Mattison, Sheriff Jerry Sauve, Health and Human Services Director Glenn Sartorelli, Tim Oestreich, Chad Poverski, and Michael Chase.

By state law, the home county of 980 sex offenders must find a suitable residence for them when they are deemed less likely to re-offend and therefore suitable for release. The 980 offenders are Individuals who were determined to be â€sexually violent persons†and sent to the state's Sand Ridge Mental Health facility for treatment and confinement after serving their prison terms.

Because the county could face a fine of $500 to $1,000 per day for failure to meet this timeline, Marinette County Administrator John LeFebvre is faced with an urgent need to find a suitable residence as quickly as possible. The offender, James Michael Harris, 52, is scheduled for release from the state's Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center on June 10 after serving the sentence imposed by Judge Tim Duket in Marinette County Circuit Court on June 5, 1997, and then being sent to Sand Ridge. Harris was residing at 802 Wells Street in the City of Marinette at the time of his arrest in late 1996.

County Board debated the issue long and hard before the 28 to two vote sending rejecting the motion on the board floor to develop a home for transitional living on a county-owned parcel on Mudbrook Road, including the purchase of a used sectional home to be placed there. Had that motion been approved, there would have been a second motion to negotiate a lease with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services under its supervised release program. Had that been done, the state would have leased the dwelling from Marinette County. The only other home in Marinette County for 980 sex offenders is located in the Town of Pound and is privately owned.

The only votes in favor of the Mudbrook Road site were cast by Administrative Committee Chair Rick Polzin of Marinette and Glenn Broderick of the Coleman/Pound area. All supervisors were present and 28 of the 30 members voted against the enabling motion.

After the vote Board Chair John Guarisco praised LeFebvre and Corporation Counsel Gale Mattison for all the work they had put into locating the residence they hoped would be approved. Guarisco, who is a realtor, said he knew LeFebvre had kept searching for another solution even after the Administrative Committee voted to seek approval of the Mudbrook Road site. The county had taken the property for non-payment of taxes and removed the dwelling, which had been deemed unfit for human occupation and unsuitable for repair.

Guarisco offered to help find a suitable site but said real estate prices are currently extremely high in this area. He asked anyone who knew of an isolated property or dwelling suitable to house a 980 sex offender on the supervised release program, â€not necessarily in your neighborhood,†that could be purchased or leased to contact him or LeFebvre.

The meeting was held in the Herbert Williams Theatre on the Marinette Campus of UW-Green Bay due to social distancing for Covid-19. There were comments that were good, because the former County Board Room room would not have been able to hold everyone, even without social distancing.

A new County Board room is being prepared in the courthouse, but LeFebvre said it will almost certainly not be ready to house the board until its May meeting.

Members of the public who spoke in addition to Brooks were Joe Evancheck, Matthew Lutze, Laura McMahon, Amanda Brault, Jean Sanborn, Jodi Evancheck, Christy Jardeen, Steve Schultz, former Clerk of Courts Linda Dumke Marquardt, Matt Hanson, Lacey Liebman, Amber Lutze, Tim McFaden, former County Board Supervisor Jason Anderson, William Shier, and Joseph Krawczyk. All urged the board not to go forward with the Mudbrook Road residence. Many cited frequent problems with cell phones and internet service in their isolated area, and many spoke of the 20 minutes it would take for law enforcement to respond from Marinette if the sex offender were to set off alarms by removing his leg bracelet.

There were also numerous letters urging the board not to approve the plans for the Mudbrook Road property, including one from Supervisor Karl Jaeger, who pointed out the difficulty of finding a suitable residence for a 980 sex offender within the timeline prescribed in the law.

Each such home can house no more than two offenders, and they are not allowed to leave the house for any reason, even to shovel snow or mow the lawn, except while under direct supervision. They are supervised by state probation and parole officers, who visit regularly but do not live there.

Several speakers, including one who was a mental health worker for the Marinette County Department of Health and Human Services for many years, questioned the proposed site in view of the purpose of release, which is for the individual to get a job and be re-introduced into the community. Several said the loneliness and isolation of being alone in a very quiet rural setting could lead to worsening mental issues.

Mattison said the state's 980 law allows only two offenders to share a home, but the placements do not last forever, and she knows of only one other Sand Ridge inmate who is likely to become eligible for release in the foreseeable future. She alleged many of the speakers had presented misinformation and pointed out that other types of sex offenders are scattered all over the county,

Sheriff Sauve was asked if there were problems with 980 residents of the home in Pound, and he said the only issues were when the equipment failed. Then, he said, the response was prompt.


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