Wayne Co. may end jail project, partner with state at Mound

$140 million plus interest and now the Wayne County jail project may end

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New Wayne County Jail New Wayne County Jail
DETROIT (WJBK) -

After spending more than a year defending his plan to build a new Wayne County Jail, Robert Ficano appears to be ready to bail on the project and sell off the land. Apparently a deal is in the works that could have the county partnering with the state, a plan we understand the governor is fully supporting.

That plan is to sell the site of the new jail, as well as the courthouse and the existing jails to a developer and move those operations to the Mound Correctional Facility.

How did we get here?

Bob Ficano wanted a new jail in time for next year's election. He even wanted to name it after himself. So his right-hand man Azzam Elder and his left-hand woman Turkia Mullin put the deal together.

Local firms Ghafari Associates and Walbridge Construction received the lion's share of the $300 million job. They are also contributors to Ficano and the nonprofit Edge Opportunities fund that paid Mullin on the side, a deal which is being look at by the FBI.

The blueprints weren't even finished on the job, but the county commissioners rubber stamped it anyway. Now it is wildly over budget, work has stopped and then a bombshell Wednesday at a County Commission hearing.

"We believe that firmly that the right thing to do is to work with the state to be partners and to move out to Mound," said June Lee, Ficano's chief of staff.

County officials are expected to ask the Building Authority to cancel the contracts on the new jail Thursday. After that, details are sketchy. Who will buy the downtown properties and develop them, and at what price? Who will pay for the new jail and court at the Mound facility? What about the colossal waste of money that was put into the jail project?

"We're going to stop this deal. It's $140 million spent. Let's not forget interest. Over 30 years, that's going to cost us $300 million for a do over. Do you want to take ownership?" I asked Ficano.

"At this point, there's still going to be a sale price on the land. That cuts into the costs," he responded. "You're going to put an entity on there that now will pay taxes. Before when the jail sat there, there was no taxes that was coming in. So now you'll have a tax base that will start to come in."

Play the video to hear Ficano talk to Charlie and also to hear Michigan State Representative explain some of the ramifications to Michigan taxpayers. Charlie also poses this question to Cavanaugh: Why the state is willing to bail out Bob Ficano but not the city of Detroit?

STATEMENT FROM GOVERNOR RICK SNYDER:

Gov. Rick Snyder issued the following statement today in support of a proposal to relocate the Wayne County Jail complex:

"This proposal recognizes the resurgence of downtown Detroit and the significant economic benefits that would come from having the jail's prime downtown location available for private sector development. Freeing up that location for private development, such as offices, hotels, and restaurants, would expand the ongoing revitalization of downtown Detroit.

"Development along those lines would create construction jobs, then long-term jobs, and expand the city's tax base for years to come. This downtown location should be recognized as an area of potential economic development because of the significant benefits that it could bring to the city, county, and state.

"My team and I are ready to work with Wayne County officials and put this proposal to relocate the criminal justice facilities to Mound Road on a fast track. We can work cooperatively to develop an integrated criminal justice center that would reduce the county's future operating costs.

There's a growing recognition of the operational and cost benefits of creating such a criminal justice center that would include the jail and the present intake system plus criminal courts and the appropriate operations of the county sheriff and the county prosecutor.
"The sooner we start that process, the better. I'm confident that by working together we can find a way to make this proposal a reality."

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