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Wayne County board hires jail consultant for $3.9M

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Wayne County commissioners Thursday approved a $3.9 million contract for a consultant to oversee completion of the county’s unfinished jail project in downtown Detroit.

They also approved a settlement agreement with contractors hired to build the jail in the city’s Greektown district.

The 15-member commission voted unanimously to approve the nearly $4 million contract with Columbia, S.C.-based Carter Goble Associates LLC. Carter Goble, or CGL, will serve as the county’s representative on the project to finish the jail, helping to choose a plan to complete the project, select contractors and coordinate work.

The contract was revised to be for six months, with a one-year renewal option. It also includes language that prohibits CGL from doing work with any other company on any jail-related project.

“I’m looking forward to getting this project on the move,” Commissioner Tim Killeen, D-Detroit, said during a committee of the whole meeting held a couple of hours before the regular full board meeting Thursday.

The choice of Carter Goble had caused a debate among the commissioners last week because of potential ties to billionaire businessman Dan Gilbert. County officials told commissioners a group that wants to buy the jail property to build a Major League Soccer stadium also was considering hiring Carter Goble to analyze potential alternative locations for the jail. The group is led by Gilbert and Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores.

Representatives of the Evans administration assured commissioners there would be no conflict because Carter Goble would be providing the county and Gilbert’s group different services.

The point was made moot when the administration recommended revising the contract to prohibit Carter Goble from taking a jail-related contract with Gilbert’s group.

However, the commission, meeting as a committee of the whole, delayed voting on whether to forward the matter to the full board until Thursday morning to get more information on the contract.

John Welborn, executive vice president of development and program management for Carter Goble, attended the committee of the whole meeting and answered questions. He told commissioners his company agreed to the changes in the proposed contract.

“This is what we signed up for and that’s where we are,” he said.

Commissioner Joseph Palamara, D-Grosse Ile, said about Carter Goble: “It’s nice to have the gold standard of owner’s reps be on our team in this endeavor.”

Wayne County commissioners also approved a $2.5 million final settlement agreement with AECOM and Ghafari Associates, two contractors hired to build the jail in 2011.

Under the agreement, the two companies will pay the county $2.5 million and the county’s lawsuit against the contractors will be dismissed.

In December, the county had approved an interim settlement agreement, which required the contractors to provide concept plans and cost estimates for finishing a scaled-down jail project.

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans praised the commission’s actions Thursday.

“The commission’s decision to approve the settlement agreement with AECOM and Ghafari puts us one step closer to removing the eyesore that the unfinished jail site has become,” he said in a statement. “Now that we’ve settled with AECOM and Ghafari, we can focus on completing the jail.”

The county began construction of a $220 million jail on Gratiot near Interstate 375 in 2011, under then-County Executive Bob Ficano. The site is bounded by Gratiot, Chrysler Service Drive, Macomb and Beaubien.

Work on the 2,000-bed project was halted in June 2013 due to $100 million in overruns and charges of corruption.

County officials estimate it costs about $1.3 million a month to have the unfinished jail sitting unused.

In April, Gilbert and Gores said they wanted to build a 25,000-seat soccer stadium, retail and residential units, a hotel and covered parking and plazas on the site. Major League Soccer hasn’t made a formal commitment yet to Detroit, but said the city is one of seven being considered as the league expands.

Evans said the county is open to working with Gilbert and Gores to explore alternative sites for the jail. But the county won’t do anything that will make the tab for the project any bigger.

“Wayne County is moving forward with plans to finish the jail on the Gratiot site because it meets the needs of the county and the county believes it is the most cost-effective option,” he said. “The county will not use any of its funds to explore alternative options and it will only consider an alternate option that meets the county’s needs at no additional expense to its taxpayers.”

cramirez@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2058