Construction on Wayne County Jail Could Restart

DETROIT — Work on the stalled Wayne County Jail on Gratiot Street in downtown Detroit could soon restart, according to The Detroit News. The worksite has remained quiet since the summer of 2013 after the project ran more than $90 million over budget.

Wayne County Commission Chairman Gary Woronchak wrote a resolution to begin construction on the project once more, which commissioners could approve at the body’s Oct. 16 meeting.

“We need to try to move in a direction,” Woronchak, D-Dearborn, told The Detroit News. “The administration has brought us information that points entirely to staying at the Gratiot site.”

Wayne County commissioners first approved plans for the new five-story, 2,000-bed jail in September 2011, and construction began in mid-2012. The state-of-the-art, money-saving facility would have streamlined management of jail medical care, food programs and laundry services, and was originally projected to save Wayne County up to $30 million annually. It would also facilitate the closing of two nearby correctional complexes.

The commissioners have considered several jail plans since the project was put on hold, including completing the half-finished jail and renovating the county’s existing Mound Road facility. However, Mound Road currently has space for just 1,600 beds, while the county averages more than 2,200 inmates per day. Another facility in Hamtramck with space for 800 beds could potentially fill the void, though plans for the downtown Detroit facility were intended to make this jail obsolete. Large-scale renovation work would also be necessary to bring the facility to high-security standards, costing an estimated $20 million. Adding the necessary courthouse and juvenile detention facility would increase the cost to upwards of $650 million.

Meanwhile, cost estimates released in September by County Executive Robert Ficano showed that completing the new jail could cost taxpayers between $72 million and $351 million more than originally budgeted, according to The Detroit News.

To fund the ambitious jail construction project, the county had issued $300 million in bonds in December 2010 and now says it has invested more than $150 million in project planning, construction, demobilization and litigation. The county could now be forced to return millions in bonds already issued by the IRS.

In the midst of the funding debacle, the county also received a $50 million offer on the site from local developer Rock Ventures LLC. The company proposed purchasing the more than 15-acre site and converting it into a multi-use residential, retail, hotel and parking complex.