A former police chief, a newspaper executive and the owner of a landscaping company are among community leaders named to study the Marathon County Jail following an inmate attack that severely injured a jailer last week.
Chief Deputy Scott Parks said Friday he named five people to the panel: former Rothschild Police Chief Bill Schremp, Mount View Care Center administrator Lori Koeppel, Intercity State Bank President Randy Balk, LandArt owner Paul Jones and Daily Herald Media General Manager Michael Beck.
"We are looking at a fresh perspective," Parks said. "Each has been successful in other endeavors."
Parks said the panel will look at various issues at the jail, including overcrowding, staffing, security and equipment, and produce a report with recommendations in time for the newly appointed sheriff to consider.
Paul Jones is one of the panelists named. Jones is the owner of LandArt, a landscape company in Wausau.
"You put a panel together of five people that can successfully run a business and make critical decisions and work within a budget and we'll do it in a responsible manner," Jones said.
But, Newsline 9 received numerous comments about the effectiveness of the group. Mainly, why did officials appoint community members instead of experts?
"The intent wasn't to get a panel of experts about jails. What we want is people who are capable of understanding the information presented to them," Marathon County Administrator Brad Karger explained.
"We live in this community, we work here, we want it to continue to improve and have an excellent long term future," Jones added.
Parks said he expected Gov. Scott Walker to appoint a replacement for retired Sheriff Randy Hoenisch by early May.
The jail review was prompted by a March 27 inmate attack that injured jailers Julie Christensen, 36, and Denny Woodward, 38. Sheriff officials say 20-year-old Fredrick Morris became combative and punched Christensen in the head. Woodward was also punched when trying to help Christensen, who remained hospitalized in intensive care this week.
"The correctional facility is a lot like a business, and we're looking to be successful in that business and these individuals bring something to the table to show they've been successful," Parks said.
Officials say Lt. Chad Billeb will work with the new panel, which is expected to meet five to seven times before making its recommendations.