June 12, 2014 at 11:50 pm

Jail option analysis to spur discussion among Wayne County officials

Work on a new Wayne County jail halted last year after cost projections rose to $391 million. (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)

Detroit— The Wayne County Executive’s Office presented county commissioners Thursday with a 200-page analysis on jail options and pledged to work with politicians and law enforcement to hammer out a plan without recommending a choice.

Executive officials cautioned that more talks and closed meetings are needed regarding litigation and financing as well as policy decisions that must be made.

“I can’t give you a clean answer right now of where I want to go because there are too many moving pieces,” Raymond Byers, executive director of government initiatives, told commissioners Thursday.

A jail project was halted last summer after cost projections soared to $391 million from a budgeted $300 million.

In December, Rock Ventures LLC pitched a plan for a $50 million sale of the 15.5-acre site of the unfinished and abandoned jail. Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano and his administration supported the plan.

Commissioners wouldn’t approve the proposal, but agreed to a nonbinding memorandum of understanding that tethered any future vote to a 180-day due diligence period. The six-month deadline passed this month.

Commissioners in March required the due diligence to include costs and feasibility of two alternatives — finishing the jail at the current site or retrofitting the existing jail.

The county sued contractors AECOM, Walbridge-dck and Ghafari Associates last year, claiming errors and delays caused the project on Gratiot to fail. The county is suing for $154 million, the amount spent on the project before it was abandoned.

During the last six months, settlement discussions led to “a better plan and cost to complete the Gratiot project,” according to the report.

AECOM estimated the Gratiot site — now referred to as the “mud lot” by some county officials — could be finished for $331 million to $351 million for a nearly 2,000-bed facility.

Adapting the decommissioned state prison on Mound Road and turning it into a 2,400-bed jail would cost about $176 million, according to a county analysis. A new criminal courthouse would be an additional $163 million, according to a letter Wayne County executive officials sent to the commission Thursday.

A court would be needed near the site because costs of moving prisoners otherwise would be unfeasible, county officials said.

Meetings on the jail have been set for Thursday and June 26.

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