Saginaw Sheriff Proposes Moving Jail to Shuttered Auto Factory

SAGINAW COUNTY, Mich. — Two months after Saginaw County commissioners heard a proposal to replace the county’s aging jail with a new facility on county-owned property, Sheriff William Federspiel is advocating for moving the jail to a now-shuttered automotive plant.

Federspiel has been urging commissioners to invest in a new jail facility for years, as the existing building suffers from an unsafe and outdated design, and operations are further strained by chronic leaks and poor ventilation. The county has been working with Goldberg Group Architects of St. Joseph, Mo. — which was brought on to complete a feasibility study that examined renovation and replacement scenarios — since December 2014.

After completing eight earlier iterations, Goldberg Group Architects returned a ninth version of the feasibility study in June that showed constructing a new facility adjacent to the existing jail structure would cost the county upwards of $39 million. Despite the initial expense, the design was also anticipated to reduce annual operating costs due to decreased staffing needs. Increasing staff efficiency could reduce the facility’s workforce from 61 to just 50, saving an estimated $2 million per year. Goldberg Group Architects is expected to present the tenth version of the feasibility later this month.

In contrast to the plan outlined by Goldberg Group Architects, Federspiel will propose relocating all jail operations to the former TRW Automotive plant located approximately three miles away from the existing jail campus, according to The 60-acre industrial property, which has been vacant since 2014, offers an existing gate and barbed-wire perimeter fencing as well as a sprawling 1-story building. Renovating and repurposing the building to serve as a secure facility could potentially help the county avoid the costs and inefficiencies associated with multi-story correctional construction. However, building and campus renovation costs to bring the structures and site in line with correctional standards are not yet known, and projected inmate transportation costs could become a factor.

Federspiel told that he also envisions the facility serving as a second county government complex that could eventually include the county’s road, maintenance, central dispatch and other departments. The plant and land are currently on the market for $8.2 million.