Wayne County jail project gets new life

Commission votes to move on with failed jail project

DETROIT – The rusting $150 million hole in the ground called the new Wayne County Jail Project is costing taxpayers $1 million a month. 

Wayne County Commissioner Ray Basham expressed his frustration Thursday with the prospect of building the jail on the same spot with the exact same contractors.

"I feel like I have a gun to my head and I have to decide whether to get shot by a .45 or a .357," he said. 

Basham and the rest of the County Commission voted to move forward with the initial redesign phase in exchange for dropping the lawsuits the county filed against them at the height of the scandal. Ghafari Associates and AECOM Services will redesign the jail to take up less space. They will offer two design options: A 1,944 bed facility and a 1,504 bed facility. 

The contract -- if they end up building the new jail -- will come at a maximum $175 million construction cost. 

The jail also is required to include a tunnel between itself and the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice. Ghafari and AECOM have to turn in their concept plans and cost estimates on or before Feb. 29 of next year. 

Commission President Gary Woronchak said Basham is right about bad choices. 

"But if we get into another winter 12 months from now, and it's still standing still 12 months from now, then it will lose integrity, and then we will really lose that money," said Woronchak. 

Instead of the Commission having now say in the construction -- as it was under former county executive Bob Ficano -- it will have a say at every turn in the process. If AECOM and Ghafari do their jobs properly then construction can move forward. It also can be stopped if something goes wrong. 

Wayne County's consent agreement with the state of Michigan requires it do something with the failed jail project. So that's precisely what new county Executive Warren Evans is doing. 

About the Author: