Michigan County Officials Vote to Purchase Land for New Jail

By CN Staff

ISABELLA COUNTY, Mich.—A new section of land for a jail and sheriff’s office, as well as potential other future developments, is expected to be owned by Isabella County soon.

County commissioners voted recently to purchase 36 acres of land in Union Township for a new jail and sheriff’s office. Union Charter Township is a charter township of Isabella County.

While the jail and sheriff’s office is expected to only require 10 acres, an ad hoc committee that worked on the project in 2019 pushed a parcel large enough that the county could ultimately remarry the jail and sheriff’s office with the trial court and administration building. Circuit Court Judge Mark Duthie, a member of the ad hoc committee, called having the jail and courthouse on the same property ideal, saying it makes moving cases much more efficient.

The project is expected to cost up to $40 million, although Clare Construction Co., the project manager, previously told the county board that the actual cost could be less than this figure.

The purchase agreement has been a big move forward in building a new county jail. Prior to COVID-19, it was hoped that commissioners could have agreed to purchase land so that physical work on the jail could begin this year.

While county officials previously left open the possibility of bringing either a bond or millage before voters, Commission Chairman George Green doesn’t think that will be necessary.

He said, in a statement, that expected revenue from the Isabella County wind project, currently under construction in the central and northern parts of the county, should be enough to pay for the project when combined with revenue from other sources.

If the jail and sheriff’s office is moved to Union Township, it could create a problem in that the state constitution requires that countywide officials maintain a principal office in the county seat, which is Mt. Pleasant.

In a statement, Sheriff Michael Main said that a principal presence is defined as records and administrative staff, and that his department would need to maintain an office where the sheriff’s office currently is. Currently, a location is being considered where inmates are transported from the jail to the courthouse.

Integrated Architecture of Grand Rapids, Mich. has been hired to provide engineering/architectural work for the project.