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Forest County Voters Support Jail, Dispatch Referendum

Ben Meyer/WXPR

Forest County voters approved a referendum Tuesday to raise their own taxes and hire more staff for the jail and dispatch center.

Nearly 60 percent of voters supported the plan.

“I’m very excited.  I really am.  I think this was a long time coming.  I can’t stress how excited I am right now,” said Jail Administrator Josh Bradley Tuesday night.

Bradley started working at the Forest County Jail 14 years ago.

Even then, the county was one of only a few in the state in which staff did the job of jailer and dispatcher at the same time.

“My first day on the job, the corrections officers, the jailer/dispatchers were telling me, ‘Eventually, this dispatch center needs to be separated from the jail.’  I’m talking Day One here,” he said.

Tuesday’s vote allows the county to hire six new staff members and split the jail and dispatch duties.

Bradley says that will improve safety for people calling in emergencies and jail inmates.  He hopes to have the improvements in place early next year.

“We’ve got to take everybody’s thoughts into consideration here, and we’re going to plan this very carefully and make sure that our county, the visitors to this county, the taxpayers, are represented properly,” Bradley said.

Property taxes in Forest County will rise by almost nine percent after the vote.

But the county needs the help.  Dispatch calls are up 59 percent over last year.

“It really is all about safety, and I’m just very happy about this outcome,” Bradley said.  “I’m very proud right now.  I really am.”

Ben worked as the Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR from September 2019 until November 2021. He now contributes occasionally to WXPR. During his full-time employment, his main focus was reporting on environment and natural resources issues in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula as part of The Stream, a weekly series.
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