LeDuff: Wayne Co. may tear down unfinished jail, sell land - My9 New Jersey

LeDuff: Wayne Co. may tear down unfinished jail, sell land

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New Wayne County Jail under construction New Wayne County Jail under construction

We've been telling you for going on two years now how the new Wayne County Jail won't be big enough, is about $100 million over budget and we ran out of money to finish it.

Now The Detroit News has reported and we've confirmed that the county is in talks to tear down the jail and sell the land along with perhaps the old jail, the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice and the police headquarters to Dan Gilbert to recoup some loses. Then the county would take another $100 million in borrowed money to retrofit the old Mound prison facility and move everything there like we suggested a year ago.

A bad deal indeed, and now you're on the hook Wayne County for tens of millions, perhaps as much as a hundred million dollars in loses. And another thing, it's not even clear if it's legal to divert borrowed money backed by the federal government for a completely different project.

"I doubt that you can sell bonds for this project and then move it to this project. I don't think it's quite that flexible," said Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson.

"I'm very unhappy that this project's had the problems it's had all along. I'm unhappy that it's going to cost us more money than we anticipated. One way or another, it's going to cost more money," said Wayne County Commissioner Gary Woronchak. "We have to stop the bleeding. We have to stop this from dragging out. We have to get it done."

Gilbert's camp confirmed there has been talks.

"These are unprecedented times in Detroit. The level of optimism, commitment, investment and spirit of collaboration has never been greater, providing great context for discussion around the relocation of the jail and criminal justice complex out of downtown Detroit," we were told in a statement.

We've been asking for months now to see the original contracts and blueprints to see if the main contractor, Walbridge Construction, is on the hook.

Walbridge issued us the following statement: "According to our contract, Walbridge cannot comment on this project. Take care and have a good day."

Not allowed to talk on a public project? What are you building, the Pentagon?

So left with no other choice, we went to Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano for answers.

"At this point, it's premature to say anything, and we're just proceeding with the project," he said.

"Is this thing over budget?" I asked.

"At this point, we're looking at whatever challenges there are with the current budget, and we're going to make a determination of what we're going to do in the future," Ficano said.

"I don't know what that meant," I said. "Is this thing over budget?"

"We're not sure what the budget projection is at this point," Ficano said.

"You can't take bond money for a project and move it. That's against the law, correct?" I asked.

"No," Ficano said.

"Is it $80 million over budget," I asked. "$80 million, plus furniture, plus technology, $100 million?"

Ficano shut the door of his Cadillac, waved and drove away.

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