If you find yourself by the River Rouge High School in the days or weeks to come, slide across the street next to the old River Rouge High School and look behind the rusty old fence.
There you will see some of the 100 prefabricated jail pods built for the failed Wayne County Jail project. They are a monument to the disaster that this project has become.
These pods are jail cells, two in each, that are stacked and snapped into place much like a child’s Lego blocks. But these are distinctly different in that they each weigh 23.5 tons EACH! It takes very heavy equipment to move them and heavy duty cranes to guide them into position. There is one tower of these square cells visible at the downtown jail site on Gratiot and St. Antoine that are lined by wooden planks if you walk by and are curious.
When Wayne County pulled the plug on its $300 million failure that ran nearly $100 million over budget these pods were never delivered to the jail site. Instead ,here they sit in the sun, the meter running on the rental fees the pod builder Old Castle Prefabrication is paying to have them here.
The Company also wants its money considering Wayne County admits it hasn’t fully paid the bill on these pods. This is just one of many expensive wind-down problems the county must wrestle to the ground.
Another is what to do with these pods once you move them off the River Rouge site. It will take days and many man hours to move them considering their enormous weight. You can’t put them on soft ground and they are not exactly an attractive neighbor.
Then there is the larger question: Will they even be useable for whatever new jail gets built? [If there is one]. The tentative plan is to sell the current jail project land to a developer and move whatever you can out to the state's mothballed Mound Road Correctional Facility. But no one knows how much money a new jail there will take and who will pick up the tab. That is a work in progress.
Meanwhile, one of the major logistical considerations is the fact that a jail is not a prison. They are two drastically different things. So right now no one knows whether these pods will be useful for the jail in the future. If they aren’t then they become a colossal, expensive demolished pile of scrap metal and concrete.
It is quite mind bending to consider the waste of taxpayer dollars going on here in this disaster. It will become more obvious as the county uncovers more of the difficulties they will face in trying to unwind the jail project.
But there is some solace to be found in the late breaking news this afternoon that Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy put an end to the fight over the audit report that looked into the fraud and poor governance that went into the jail. She asked for and received a one-man grand jury to investigate. It may take a while but it is fairly certain Judge Timothy Kenny will get to the bottom of this disaster to let everyone know who is responsible for this failed jail that sits in the sun and will soon sit in the slop and snow of a Michigan winter.
And the meter continues running.