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Macomb leaders edge closer to putting $375M jail plan on ballot

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Mount Clemens — A committee of the Macomb County Board of Commissioners moved closer Wednesday to putting a $375 million jail project funding on the ballot.

Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham and thecounty executive's office still are seeking commissioner approval of ballot language that recommends a 21-year, 0.98 millage for the project. Under the proposal, 0.78 mills would fund the $375 million proposed jail and 0.20 mills would support the operation and personnel costs associated with the new jail.

“We have problems, and I think I have offered some solutions,” said Wickersham, following a presentation to the committee Wednesday, which approved receipt of a report on the project.

Commissioners discuss the jail proposal Wednesday.

“I think this is something that needs to be put before the voters to decide.” 

Parts of the jail were built in the 1950s, and it is understaffed and lacking needed supervision, mental health beds and other inmate needs. There have been several deaths and suicides in the jail.

The new jail would be built adjacent to the jail's current site located west of Elizabeth Road and south of Dunham in Mount Clemens.

The proposed new jail would be built adjacent to the current jail, west of Elizabeth Road and south of Dunham in Mount Clemens.

For a home with a cash value of $150,000, 0.98 mills would cost a homeowner $73.50 a year for21 years. The money from the millage would be used to repay a bond issued by Macomb County to pay for the jail project, according to the county executive’s office.

As part of the proposal, if the facility housed 1,250 beds, additional personnel are being requested, including Corrections deputies and pretrial specialists. If the new jail housed 1,518 beds, 108 additional personnel are being requested.

The current jail dates back to the 1950s with various additions, including its present tower, added over the years.

“I’ve taken a tour of the jail, and there are areas that you couldn’t pay me to work in,” said Commissioner Veronica Klinefelt.

Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham, center-left, his command staff and others stand for the Pledge of Allegiance during the meeting to consider the jail proposal.

Commissioner Jim Carabelli criticized some of the architectural plans as “too fancy dancy” for his taste but noted proposals about a new jail “have been kicked down the road long enough.” He noted some of the repairs and renovations over the past 10 years — “just to keep it going” — have already amounted to $50 million.

Several commissioners told Wickersham they supported his efforts but have to hear more specifics before voting on the resolution.

The committee is expected to take up the resolution language on July 18, and if in agreement, the resolution would go before the full board for approval on July 25, committee chairman Rob Leonetti said.

The proposed ballot language has already drawn criticism from Commissioner Leon Drolet, who expressed concerns about its wording. Drolet reached out to several colleagues this past week and said the ballot language for the jail tax proposal suggested by County Executive Mark Hackel contains “advocacy” with its use of subjective adjectives like humane, modern and efficient.


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