Jail proposals in final stages, nearing final decision

Evans administration to pursue best option as part of dual track strategy

Wayne County has received two final proposals as part of Executive Warren C. Evans’ dual track strategy to resolve the unfinished jail project. Walsh Construction submitted its response to the county’s Request for Proposal to complete the unfinished jail at Gratiot while Rock Ventures submitted its comprehensive enhanced proposal to construct a new Criminal Justice Center on land currently owned by the City of Detroit and adjacent to the original East Forest location proposed by Rock.

Following Evans’ dual track strategy, the County Commission previously approved a number of due diligence contracts, which allowed Walsh to complete its response to the RFP while the administration vetted Rock’s initial proposal. While awaiting Walsh’s response, the county worked diligently with key stakeholders to provide Rock with input on what is needed in a new Criminal Justice Center to adequately meet the county’s needs resulting in the enhanced proposal just received.

“The goal was to provide the county with alternative solutions to the jail project and we’ve done that. We’re finally able to fully evaluate the proposals and pursue what’s best for Wayne County,” Evans said. “We’ll work diligently to move this forward as quickly as we can. Just like everyone else in Wayne County, I’m tired of talk. I want the jail project resolved.”

Walsh’s proposal includes two jail options at Gratiot, with approximately 1,608 beds at $269 million and 2,200 beds at the cost of $317.6 million. Rock Ventures’ proposal offers to build the county a new Criminal Justice Center with a 2,280 bed jail, criminal courthouse, prosecutor offices, sheriff administrative offices and a juvenile detention facility at an approximate cost of $520.3 million with the county responsible for $380 million plus the cost of acquiring the land and Rock responsible for cost overruns. The proposed site of the Criminal Justice Center is on approximately 13 acres of land owned by the City of Detroit bounded by the I-75 Service Drive, E. Warren, E. Ferry, Russell and Frederick.

After evaluating the two proposals, Evans will recommend which one the county moves forward with. That recommendation is expected by late July. Whichever proposal is selected will require extensive negotiations to determine if a final contract can be reached. If a contract is reached, it must be submitted to the Wayne County Commission and Wayne County Building Authority for approval.

“The logic has always been clear to me. It’s not about soccer and it’s not about politics. It’s about a county with very real fiscal limitations, financing a desperately needed jail which has already cost taxpayers millions,” Evans said. “This decision is solely about what’s best for Wayne County.”

Rock’s initial proposal was to build the county a 1,600 bed jail, criminal courthouse, prosecutor offices, sheriff administrative offices and a juvenile detention facility on an alternative site, if the county paid the first $300 million and an undetermined amount for operational savings. Rock estimated the cost of the project at $420 million and promised to cover any cost overruns. Rock’s initial proposal included an option to increase the jail to 2,000 beds, but required the county spend an additional  $43 million above the $300 million.

Under Evans’ leadership, the county restored fiscal stability, positioning Wayne County to finance a solution to the jail project. The county eliminated structural and accumulated deficits totaling about $134 million and exited a consent agreement with the State of Michigan after only 14 months. It also posted back-to-back budget surpluses, reduced unfunded health care liabilities by about $1 billion, and increased pension system funding from 45% to 54%.

The IRS decision relating to the appropriate use of jail bond proceeds on an alternative site to Gratiot remains pending. Without a favorable decision from the IRS, no agreement between the county and Rock to construct a Criminal Justice Center on an alternative site is possible.

The county, however, is optimistic that the IRS decision will not result in an insurmountable obstacle to this project and therefore will still consider Rock’s proposal an option.

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