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Proposed youth correctional facility in Milwaukee has support of mayor, but not all in neighborhood

building in field
Chuck Quirmbach
This building at 7930 W. Clinton Ave. in Milwaukee would be replaced by the proposed youth correctional facility.

Updated 11:16 a.m. CDT

The Milwaukee Common Council held a special meeting Friday morning, voting 11-1 in favor of a resolution that supports a 32-bed youth correctional facility on the city's northwest side.

Ald. Milele Coggs was the single vote against the facility.

Before the vote, Ald. Robert Bauman said, "Our approval today does not circumvent or overrule or override the normal process of a zoning change and any other approvals that may be required in order to build this facility. Those processes will still proceed in the normal order involving the plan commission, involving a hearing before the zoning committee and then ultimately Common Council action. So again, this action today is merely to satisfy a requirement of a state statute, which does not negate or overrule any of the other normal process that the city would engage in."

Gov. Tony Evers and the Wisconsin Department of Corrections unveiled the proposed site at 7930 W. Clinton Avenue just a few days ago. It's part of a statewide restructuring of the youth justice system — aiming to close the Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake facilities in northern Wisconsin, and move children in state care closer to their homes.

But critics who live in a small neighborhood near 79th and Clinton say they've had little chance to hear about about the project.

One of those residents, Margaret Thorn, says she has no confidence in state or local officials developing a building that's acceptable to the area.

"It's ridiculous how this is being crammed down our throats. Without any discussion. There's no information about the site. There's too many families in this community," she tells WUWM.

Thorn says she understands the need for a local youth correctional facility, but says her neighborhood also has many other concerns, and currently doesn't have an alderperson, after former Ald. Chantia Lewis was removed after pleading guilty to misconduct in office.

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnsons said he hopes the local critics get a chance to talk to the Corrections Department.

"The key piece here, though, is making sure those young people have a place back home here in Milwaukee. That they're not shipped three and a half, four hours, north, away from resources, away from their families, away from the programs that are going to help them rehabilitate and come back to our community, in a safe productive manner," Johnson told WUWM Thursday, at his office.

The state is promising public hearings, and Republicans who control the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee could weigh in.

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