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Wayne County leaders at odds over failed jail's future

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DETROIT – Nobody disputes the idled Wayne County jail project on Gratiot Avenue in downtown Detroit is a mess.

The question is: should they restart the work there or use a state prison on Mound Road?

Dan Gilbert, who appears ready to put a new development on the Gratiot site, is asking the county to be part of a task force to resolve the issue.

"To review all the information to date and to come up with a consensus recommendation," said June S. Lee, Wayne County chief of staff.

That would include business, county and state officials. The County Commissioners gave the idea an immediate and vehement no.

"I think that's total -- since I'm in a public room I'll say B.S.," said Commissioner Laura Cox.

Meanwhile, the county executive's office supplied some cost comparisons: $372 million to stay on Gratiot Avenue and $651 million to move to Mound Road The biggest reason for the cost difference is that a move to the Mound Road site requires a brand new court building.

"They cannot be apart from each other. The jail has to be with the courthouse," said Mark Abbo, the county's chief financial officer.

Since the county would need state help for the Mound Road option, the commission chair believes Gratiot Avenue is the obvious choice.

"Everything logically right now points to staying on the site where the jail has been halted and to continue building it and finishing it there," said Commission Chair Gary Woronchak.

That choice is complicated by a pending lawsuit filed by the county against the company in charge of the construction.

Meanwhile, a one-man grand jury is reviewing the failed jailed situation to decide if anyone will face charges in connection to its financial failure.