Wayne County won’t consider Mound prison for jail site

Steve Pardo
The Detroit News

Detroit — Wayne County commissioners passed a resolution Thursday ending any plans to retrofit a former state prison on Mound Road into a county jail into a criminal justice center.

The resolution passed 12-3 and removes from consideration the Mound site, but allows the county to explore options for the construction of a new jail or to revamp three existing structures.

“The numbers never added up,” said Commission Chairman Gary Woronchak, D-Dearborn. “And that was without even considering whether Mound Road was a practical location for the county’s criminal justice operations.”

Officials have been weighing options for nearly a year on how to progress with a new jail. Options included restarting construction on the stalled facility downtown at Gratiot and Madison or moving operations to the former prison facility on Mound.

Construction on the Gratiot site was ordered stopped in June of last year by Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano after estimated costs soared from $300 million to more than $390 million. Commissioners approved $300 million in bonds when the plan was approved in 2011. The county has bonded $200 million and about $160 million has been spent on the unfinished jail.

It costs the county about $50,000 a month for upkeep and security at the half-finished site, officials said.

Estimates on its completion would total $372.5 million. Building a jail, a courthouse and a juvenile detention facility at the Mound site would cost up to $651 million. Taking into consideration the interest on the bonds over 30 years, total taxpayer costs for Mound would have totaled nearly $1.5 billion, Commissioner Tim Killeen said. Total costs for finishing the Gratiot site would be about $758 million, he said.

“I just cannot see handcuffing the county and the essential services we need to provide in order to go over to the Mound site,” said Killeen, D-Detroit, in support of the resolution. “It’s just not feasible for the county to consider going out to Mound Road.”

Commissioner Shannon Price was one of the three voting against the resolution. Price, R-Canton Township, called it “silly” and “goofy.”

“I don’t know why we have to pass a resolution saying we’re not going to look at something anymore,” Price said. “To me it’s just a waste of time.”

Last December, Rock Ventures LLC pitched a plan for a $50 million purchase of the 15½-acre site of the unfinished jail. Rock Ventures founder Dan Gilbert, who owns the Greektown Casino and many properties in the area, said the site should be part a premier entertainment district.

The jail construction led to an FBI probe and has resulted in criminal charges. Former chief financial officer Carla Sledge and Steve Collins, an assistant corporation counsel, face charges on allegations of intentionally misleading county commissioners and building authority members about the true costs of the project. A hearing is set for Oct. 31.

A third official, former jail consultant, Anthony Parlovecchio, faces a misdemeanor count of willful neglect of duty by a public official.


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