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Despite the misgivings of the chairman, the Madison County Board Wednesday night unanimously approved a $14.3 million jail project.

Many board members were critical of Chairman Kurt Prenzler and County Administrator Doug Hulme, who had issued a press release chastising the project as too expensive, this after committees of the county had spent substantial time arriving at recommendations for the renovation. A debate over the work has gone off periodically for years.

Here is our story from earlier Wednesday.

EDWARDSVILLE - A $14 million jail renovation project that the Madison County Board is considering Wednesday night is too expensive, the County Board chairman says.

prenzler kurt2016“I believe work needs to be done at the jail, but I am not convinced we should be renovating jail cells,” Prenzler said. “I don’t think taxpayers want to see millions of dollars of the county savings used this way.”

Prenzler said he believes an $8 million base project would be the better option to start. Both the Facilities and Finance committees approved the $14 million cost.

“The County Board members have good intentions for approving the $14 million cost, but it’s too high,” he said.

In 2012, the County Board voted to issue bonds to renovate the jail and estimated the cost to be nearly $19 million.

Prenzler, along with many others, collected more than 23,000 signatures to force the issue to a vote. The referendum failed 2 to 1.

County Administrator Doug Hulme said the $8 million project makes better financial sense.

“If we approve the $14 million project, we will be committing a majority of the county’s cash to one project,” Hulme said. “Madison County is in good financial health, but a $14 million project paid in cash will potentially mean some tough decisions in the future.”

He said the smaller project would fix mechanical, electrical and sewer issues. The larger project would be for the complete renovation of the cellblocks.

The county board will vote on the project at 5 p.m. Wednesday.