By Rachel Leber
SAGINAW, Mich. — Close to a year and a half after the initial proposal for a new jail, the Saginaw County Board of Commissioners has approved the new Saginaw County Adult Detention Facility to move forward in the planning process.
The board chose the Spence Brothers Construction Co. in Saginaw as construction manager for the project on Oct. 17 at the recent board meeting, and also approved a resolution that will allow the sale of up to $41 million in bonds to finance construction of the facility. The bonds were priced on Oct. 30 and close on Nov. 21.
The new jail is expected to break ground in March or April of 2018 if all goes according to plan, with an expected 18- to 24-month construction schedule. The new jail will be built across the street from the current Saginaw County Jail on Harrison Street, and will house 513 inmates. The current estimated cost of construction is currently $35.8 million.
The existing jail is currently staffed by 63 correctional officers, but plans for staff cuts are in the works, with a plan to pay for the cost of the new jail by reducing current jail staff. Plans moving forward are to have only 43 staff members for the new jail. The benefits and wages saved from the staff cuts would be the equivalent of payments needed to pay for the bonds that will cover the cost of the jail over the next 25 to 30 years.
These staff cuts will be made possible by using a design that allows for direct supervision in the jail — as opposed to the existing linear-bar jail. This new design will make it possible for officers to manage and see the same number of inmates with fewer staff.
While the initial proposal was made in summer of 2016, the county has been working with Goldberg Group Architects of St. Joseph, Mo., since December 2014. The existing Saginaw County Jail is nearly 50 years old, and was originally built to house only 218 inmates.
While the existing jail has been added onto several times over the years in an attempt to meet expanding population needs, the need for a new jail has been emphasized by the County Sheriff due to safety issues including jail doors not being able to lock securely.