Editor's note: This article was submitted by the Wayne County Commission.
As Wayne County continues to explore the next move for its troubled jail project, County Commission Chairman Gary Woronchak has appointed a special task force to dig further into what went wrong and to explore whether any suggested future plans are the best direction for the project.
Commissioner Kevin McNamara, D-Belleville, will serve as chairman of the task force, which will also include Commissioners Alisha Bell, D-Detroit, Richard LeBlanc, D-Westland, Laura Cox, R-Livonia, and Tim Killeen, D-Detroit.
Ground was broken two years ago on the new jail across from the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice, adjacent to the Greektown area. The county’s three jails would be consolidated into one modern facility that was hoped to create enough savings through efficiencies to pay the $300 million in bonds needed for the project.
After it was reported this spring that the project would take closer to $390 million to complete, work was halted in June so an outside firm could explore the reasons for the higher costs, while other developers proposed new directions for the project. Development contracts were terminated by the Wayne County Building Authority in August, officially pulling the plug on the project.
“The commission needs to know how this happened, what went wrong and who’s responsible,” said McNamara. “The processes that occurred were corrupted and so these processes need to change in order for this to never happen again.”
Meanwhile, the county’s Building Authority, which is overseeing the project, will consider options for moving forward. The solution most embraced by the administration of County Executive Robert Ficano is to partner with the state to develop a jail and court facilities at a closed state correctional facility on Mound Road. This would include selling the current jail site, courthouse and other county properties to offset losses and pay for renovation at the Mound Road location.
“Moving the jail to Mound Road may be what the administration is exploring most closely at the moment, but the Jail Task Force will be taking an independent look at what the best next move is on behalf of taxpayers,” said Woronchak, D-Dearborn.
While the Wayne County Commission authorized the bonds and approved the initial contracts, oversight of the project was largely provided by the Building Authority. Woronchak said the Jail Task Force will give the commission an official, designated point of contact with the project.
“Commissioner McNamara will set the agenda and direction of the task force, and he has great enthusiasm for being detailed, both on why the problems occurred and how to avoid them in the next phase,” Woronchak said.