Wayne Co. gives extension to jail’s contractors

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Detroit — Wayne County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a 33-day extension on an interim settlement with contractors hired to build a jail that sits unfinished on the corner of Gratiot and Madison in the city’s Greektown district.

Commissioners voted 11-2 to approve the proposal during a special full board meeting. Commissioners Glenn Anderson, D-Westland, and Terry Marecki, R-Livonia, voted against the measure. Commissioners Al Haidous, D-Wayne, and Martha Scott, D-Highland Park, were excused from the meeting.

The vote comes about a month after the body first approved the measure.

Gary August, an attorney representing the county on the project, said the extension was needed to give the contractors more time to learn whether they can obtain additional precast concrete prison cells for the project or if they will have to design a build a steel frame for the structure. The project began in 2011 with precast prison cells, he told commissioners.

“So that is why we need the additional days,” August said. “Until that piece is put together, (the contractors) can’t come up with their design.”

He told commissioners county officials and representatives from the contractors will meet with the precast cell manufacturer on Thursday to find out if it can resume production and how long it would take to make enough for the jail.

Commissioners asked August questions about whether the body would get regular updates on the project’s progress and how the extension would effect the timetable for completing the project.

“My main concern here is the timeline,” said Commissioner Tim Killeen, D-Detroit.

August said the project wouldn’t likely start until spring 2017 and take about 18 months to complete.

Commissioners also asked if the delay would affect the county’s deadline for submitting a plan for the jail, a requirement of its consent agreement with the state.

Wayne County entered into a consent agreement to fix its finances in August. As part of the deal, the state wanted the county to provide by Jan. 31 a report on its projected needs and costs for housing inmates in the county jail for the next 20 years.

Due to the extension, the county will ask the state for more time to submit a more comprehensive plan for the jail, Zenna Elhasan, Wayne County Corporation Counsel, told the commission. She also said the state will likely grant the county additional time.

Under the original interim settlement agreement, the contractors — AECOM and Ghafari Associates — had until Jan. 29 to provide concept plans and cost estimates for finishing a scaled-down jail project. They now have until March 3, which coincides with a scheduled full board meeting.

The companies are expected to provide the county two options for the jail, a 1,944 bed facility and one with 1,504 beds.

Both concepts are to include a tunnel between the jail and the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice, located across Madison Street.

The county can pursue or reject either plan; and if costs exceed the target, the county can re-file its lawsuit against the contractors, according to officials.

If the county picks one of the plans, AECOM and Ghafari will have 180 days to complete redesign work and prepare a bidding package for construction.

AECOM and Ghafari will assume the costs to develop the concept plans, preliminary inspections and evaluations of the existing structure, and construction cost estimates if the county elects to proceed with the redesigned jail, officials said.

They also said the deal sets maximum construction costs for the project at $175 million.

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans said last month the deal clears the way for engineering and design contractors to prepare two conceptual plans and cost estimates for completing the jail.

The unfinished, 2,000-bed jail project was started by then-County Executive Bob Ficano. Construction for the $220 million project was halted in June 2013 after $100 million in overruns and charges of corruption.

In October 2014, the county sued jail project contractors, claiming errors and delays caused the project to fail. The companies counter-sued.

Officials estimate it costs the county about $1.3 million a month to have the half-finished jail sitting unused.


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