Mich. Jail Project On Track

Allegan, Mich. The Allegan County board is moving ahead with plans for a $19 million jail, though funding sources for the project have not been determined.


Bids for the combined jail and sheriffs office facility could be opened in August.


Voters defeated a $20 million proposal in August and a $31 million request to build a facility that would hold 356 inmates failed in November.


Commissioners began looking at reduced plans for the facility following the failure of the two funding initiatives, asking designers to draw up options for a $16.5 million facility that could be paid off in 20 years.


Designers presented two plans one for a base cost of $19 million for 248 beds and the other for $16.6 million for 200 beds. The current downtown jail has 173 beds.


Although neither option was popular with the sheriffs department or commissioners, the $19 million plan garnered more support than the lower-cost plan.


Representatives from jail architect firm RQAW will meet with sheriffs office officials to resolve problems with the design, said Joseph Mrak of RQAW.


Commissioners opted for a wait-and-see proposal recently and will make a decision on financing when specific costs are known, which could be as late as the opening of construction bids.


Several options have been considered, including using reserve funds and delinquent tax money in order to offset construction delays. One proposal delayed construction for about five years while money was saved and another for a decade to bank the total cost of the jail in an effort to avoid interest payments.


Possible budget cuts and layoffs will not impede construction of the jail since jail construction funds will come from accounts not linked to the day-to-day operations of the county. The county might need to cut $1.5 million from its budget due to a decrease in taxes, reduced state revenue sharing and increases in general operating costs.


The idea of a shared regional jail, suggested by one commissioner, is not an immediate option because each county needs to move ahead quickly.