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WINFIELD, Wis. – Paul Meister has lived in Winfield for decades, one of only about 800 to reside there now. He said he has never seen town hall as packed as it was Wednesday night.
“They knew that they were going to bring this man in, and now we have to put up with it, and I hope we don't have to,” Meister said.
That man Meister has heard so much about is Jeremy Felix. The 26-year-old was moved into a fortified facility in Baraboo last year with people guarding him around the clock. Felix pleaded guilty to attempted strangulation in 2010, and Baraboo Police have reported at least 12 people were sent to the hospital with Felix under their watch.
Winfield Town Chairman Ron Churchill said he was never informed about Felix’s move to a house on county road WD, and he’s still not certain when that move might take place.
“We don't want anybody getting hurt. It’s as simple as that, it’s the simplest thing on earth, and I'm trying to protect the community,” Churchill said.
Dungarvin executive director Julie Josephitis and Care Wisconsin COO Ken Eimers were both a part of a panel that answered questions from a town-hired attorney Wednesday night.
Care Wisconsin is directly hired by the state, and Eimers said his company is ultimately accountable for the care Felix receives and where that takes place.
Dungarvin is a provider contracted out by Care Wisconsin to provide the hands-on care for people with disabilities and the elderly.
Josephitis and Eimers told the crowd of more than 70 people that they couldn’t disclose specifics on Felix’s care plan. Josephitis wouldn’t say exactly what security measures will be at the home on county road WD, but stressed to people in attendance that the company has a history of safety.
“At no point have we needed law enforcement to come in and help us manage a situation where we're maybe dealing with someone who's having a behavioral incident,” Josephitis said.
Eimers said he had been talking with Sauk County officials and law enforcement about Felix’s transfer, not giving any reason why Churchill and other town officials perhaps didn’t get a heads up on the plans.
Eimers explained the rationale behind moving Felix out to the country, mainly the access to help in the Winfield area when it comes to health care facilities and Dungarvin staff.
“The fundamental reason for Winfield was its proximity to all of the supports and infrastructure that our provider has that are important to keeping a program like this safe and secure,” Eimers said.
Neighbors were specifically concerned about Felix’s rural placement, particularly because the area has spotty cell service.
There were also questions about response time. Sharon Bosel with the Sauk County Department of Human Services explained the process of creating a crisis response plan and calling a crisis counselor out to the scene. She said that response could take upwards of 45 minutes. Sheriff Chip Meister said it could take a deputy 25 minutes to get to Felix’s house.
There was no exact move-in date discussed at Wednesday night’s meeting.
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