Macomb County shelves plan for new jail, cites pandemic

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Chalk up another victim of the coronavirus: a new jail planned for Macomb County.

Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham, left, and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel answer questions from the media while standing inside a jail cell inside the D block of the Macomb county jail.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said Thursday a 0.7-mill proposal that was envisioned for the August ballot has been scrubbed. The proposed $300 million jail, to hold about 1,100 inmates, would have been built at the site of the present county lockup at Groesbeck Highway and Elizabeth Road.

“There’s no question we need a new facility but we will make do with what we have for now,” said Hackel. “With people losing their jobs and budgets from local to state under review, this is not a good time to be planning any major building projects. It doesn’t make fiscal sense and would be in bad taste.”

Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham agreed and said the jail’s population, with the cooperation of judges and the use of alternative sentencing, has been cut nearly in half, making it easier to function.

Commissioner Rob Leonetti, chairman of the Records and Public Safety Committee, agreed with Hackel’s decision to scotch the millage question for now. The Macomb Board of Commissioners was expected to vote on the jail proposal this month.

"In light of current conditions, the decision of the executive and the sheriff to not move forward with the request for a new jail millage is what is best for Macomb County at this time. The COVID-19 crisis continues to impact thousands of residents, and our focus needs to remain on this ever-evolving situation," said Leonetti, D-Harrison Township.

The proposal was a scaled-down version of an earlier plan to build a 1,516-inmate jail costing $400 million.

Hackel said while immediate concerns are the health and safety of residents, the economic costs of the pandemic will affect every local, county and state government budget in the months ahead.

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