DETROIT - The numbers are staggering regarding the failed Wayne County Jail project.
It sits out in the elements nearly $100 million over the $300 million budget [had they not stopped building]. The latest estimate shown at the Wayne County Building Authority meeting this morning says the amount of money in the ground may go as high as $162 million. Imagine that, $162 million tax dollars doing absolutely nothing!
The Building Authority is in wind-down mode as the site needs to be fully secured. That process is now expected to cost between $12 million and $15 million. This until a decision is made on what to do with this entire new jail mess. Remaining on the table is selling the site and moving to the old, state owned, Mound Road Correctional Facility. Should that fail, expect to see construction resume at the Gratiot site.
Earlier this summer Local 4 was the first to show you close up 100 prefab cement jail cell pods that weigh more than twenty tons a piece and cost a collective six million dollars. They were built in River Rouge across the street from the high school. They have been stored here awaiting shipment to the failed jail site for six months or more. Up until today we were uncertain where they would go or how they would be managed. All we knew was that it was costing the county money to store them in the old industrial yard where they were built.
Today in the wind-down plan the news came out Wayne County has hired a company to move cranes in and lift the pods onto extra-wide load trucks and ship them to the failed jail site so as to at least cut off the storage costs. But that shipping alone will run $500,000 and the meter keeps on running as if we were riding in a taxicab.
The report also shows even after they finish the full wind-down on the site, which is expected to happen by mid-February, will include filling in some trenches and knocking down cement walls that are not totally stable. They will also add a new, higher security fence after the jail cell pods are safely stored. If you thought that would end the cash drain, think again. In order to have 24/7 security patrol the site, have lighting and a sump pump operating to keep the rainwater from inundating the place, it will still cost more than $12,000 a month.
The State of Michigan is looking to help Wayne County fix this mess but tonight we still do not know just how much or in what form that assistance will take. No matter how you slice this mess the county is going to lose money, big money; in the millions of dollars. There are many involved with this project, particularly the Building Authority, that want to look ahead and solve the problem of getting a new jail built and reducing the loss.
Many more are still wondering how Wayne County got here; how this disaster was allowed to happen. There is a one man grand jury and federal authorities looking for answers to those questions. Rest assured this jail mess will be with us for years and as always the meter will keep on running.
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