Wayne Co. keeps Walsh on the table for jail project

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

Wayne County has extended a $500,000 stipend agreement with Walsh Construction to keep the firm’s county jail proposal on the table as it looks to reach a separate agreement with Dan Gilbert.

County officials on Thursday approved the extension to Dec. 1, which gives the administration more time to decide if it wants to stop negotiations with Gilbert’s Rock Ventures and go with the Walsh proposal for the unfinished jail site.

The Dec. 1 deadline marks when Wayne County will be required to pay Walsh $500,000 for the work it did on the proposal. It’s also the last day the financial terms of Walsh’s proposal will be locked in, officials say.

The stipend agreement deadline was previously set for Thursday.

Chicago-based Walsh and Rock Ventures have been competing for a contract award at the jail site.

However, Wayne County announced in July that it was focusing on Gilbert’s $520.3 million offer to build a criminal justice complex at another site and develop mixed-use buildings and an MLS soccer stadium at the site of the county’s unfinished jail. A 2,280-bed jail would be included in the complex.

Walsh pitched a plan to complete the existing jail site with two options: one had 1,608 beds at $269 million and the other called for 2,200 beds at $317.6 million.

Under the Rock Ventures plan, the county would be on the hook for $380 million, plus the cost of acquiring a Detroit Department of Transportation property near I-75 and Warren. The criminal justice complex would be built at that site.

The county and city are currently working to reach a deal on the DDOT property.

Wayne County is also awaiting Internal Revenue Service approval to use the existing jail bonds on the Rock Ventures’ proposed site instead of the Gratiot property, officials say.

A few members of the Wayne County Commission, which is required to sign off on the jail deal, expressed concern with the administration’s decision to focus on Rock Ventures.

Commissioner Diane Webb said the county is incurring extra expenses by selecting Gilbert. She noted that the longer it takes to strike a deal, the more it costs.

The half-finished jail has sat unused at a cost of $1.3 million a month, county officials estimate.

“There is no way in the world that the Rock project is going to cost us less than the Walsh project,” Webb said during a Committee of the Whole meeting Wednesday.

Commissioner Raymond Basham said he would not support Gilbert.

“We should have went with Walsh,” Basham said. “They have built other jails across the country.”

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans said previously that Gilbert offered a better deal because it has “more upside, less risk and a smaller financial gap than Walsh Construction’s proposal.”


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