New Wayne County jail: Bigger trouble

By Rod Meloni - Reporter, CFP ®

WAYNE COUNTY, Mich. - If you thought the new, delayed, $100 million budget busting bomb called the New Wayne County Jail project was trouble you would be correct. The problem is it's even bigger than you thought! The size and scope of this disaster is growing by leaps and bounds by the day and the information coming into Local Four News is that this project may exceed the already breathtaking numbers. Today the Wayne County Commission was supposed to get a report on the five proposals that would give the County an alternative to building its jail next to Greektown Casino. The County postponed that meeting until next Wednesday asking commissioners for more time to put its presentation together.

READ: Notice of project postponement

Wednesday it informed the contractor Walbridge Aldinger the delayed construction will continue until August 16th, or a week from Friday.

READ: Notice of project suspension extension

A sixty day construction moratorium was supposed to end yesterday, it did not. And from the information we are receiving it is likely the cranes may not get underway until fall at the earliest if at all! But the more troubling part of this debacle is that the meter is running every minute of every day. Construction delays cost $2 million a month, $66,666 a day and that tab is at half a million dollars carrying us from today until a week from Friday. Sadly, that is the good news. The bad news is the cost overruns for the overall project are likely make those numbers look like chump change!

Not spoken in all of this is the investigation into what caused this problem. That information was supposed to come out in today's meeting as well. We may hear it next week; if that meeting isn't postponed. You see postponing meetings are par for the course. The Wayne County Building Authority is the entity that is supposed to approve all "change orders" that would allow for more expensive additions to the jail. The authority was charged with the job of approving any changes. Care to guess how many change orders the Wayne County Building Authority approved on the new jail project? That's right: EXACTLY NONE! The changes were allowed without the proper authority. What's more, it turns out Ficano knew last December his jail project was $50 million dollars over budget. That is precisely the same time when Ficano started postponing Building Authority meetings that came with project briefings. Even when the couple of meetings were held in the spring they did not include any briefings with specific numbers on the jail's spiraling and staggering cost overruns. But then, last spring the construction companies dropped another $40 million in cost overruns on Ficanoand that forced his hand. He decided to halt construction for sixty days. Well, we've waited two months to see how the investigation into what went wrong would go and to see which of the five alternative projects they would use to try and solve this mess. [I'm hearing they're not likely to pick any of those five]. But, we won't get the full details for another week. So what's $400,000 among taxpayers?

There is much more to this staggering bit of government overspending. Rest assured I have a lot more in my reporter's notebook I can't tell you right now as I haven't had the time to fully confirm everything. I will. Watch this jail project and our continuing coverage. It is a monster of headline news as well as a white elephant noshing on millions of Wayne County tax dollars. This is bigger than we thought and, sadly, only getting bigger.



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