Jail proposal to appear on August ballot

By: Alex Szwarc | C&G Newspapers | Published October 3, 2019

 A Macomb County Jail cell built in 1954, pictured in July. The proposed new jail would cost $371 million and would be constructed on the current county jail property if a proposal passes next year.

A Macomb County Jail cell built in 1954, pictured in July. The proposed new jail would cost $371 million and would be constructed on the current county jail property if a proposal passes next year.

File photo by Deb Jacques

Advertisement
Advertisement

MACOMB COUNTY — A proposal for a new Macomb County Jail will be on the ballot next year.

At the Sept. 26 Macomb County Board of Commissioners meeting, a resolution to choose an election date for the proposal of levying an extra millage to fund the new jail project was adopted.

In a 9-4 vote, the board agreed to rescind a previous resolution and authorized a Macomb County ballot proposal to finance the jail for the election to be held Aug. 4, 2020.

Commissioners Andrey Duzyj, Marv Sauger, Veronica Klinefelt, Joseph Romano, Jim Carabelli, Elizabeth Lucido, Robert Leonetti, Harold Haugh and Bob Smith voted in favor of authorizing the ballot proposal, while Robert Mijac, Don Brown, Phil Kraft and Leon Drolet voted against it.

The Macomb County Executive’s Office had advised the board that in order to obtain true costs for the proposed jail project to ensure that accurate millage language may be developed, a date for the election on which the jail millage proposal would be presented should be determined prior to February.

“I don’t think this should be on any ballot,” said Drolet, a Republican who represents District 13, which includes most of Macomb Township. “There’s no need to raise taxes to address the jail.”

Drolet added that the rescinded resolution was for the board to decide in January or February when to place the proposal on the ballot.

In July, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said, “There’s not a lot of people out there — whether it’s the Board of Commissioners, people in the field, judges — that don’t come to the understanding that there needs to be a very unique fix.”

Financial information and the ballot language are yet to be determined. No proposals will be placed on the ballot until the project is approved and updated financial information is provided to the board.

In June, the board considered how the millage should be worded.

At the time, Drolet believed that ballot language contained advocacy, so he presented alternative language.

A July poll initiated by the board revealed that 60% of Macomb County voters opposed the proposal to raise property taxes to fund the new jail.

The proposed new jail would cost $371 million and would be constructed on the current county jail property. The 1,518-bed facility would replace the existing complex.

The Macomb County Jail, located on Elizabeth Road in Mount Clemens, currently has a capacity of 1,238 beds. The jail houses pretrial detainees, as well as prisoners sentenced to one year or less. Many of the programs at the jail assist in providing counseling services and life skills aimed at reducing recidivism.

The funding mechanism recommended for the new jail is a 20-year, 0.98-mill county tax: 0.78 mill would fund the $371 million proposed new jail, and 0.2 mill would support the operation and personnel costs associated with it.

For a home worth $150,000, 0.98 mill would cost $73.50 per year for two decades.

Over the next few years, Drolet said, the county has a number of debts that will be paid off.

“As we pay them off, we could use that existing money to rebuild parts of the jail,” he said. “There’s been a number of proposals put forward (about) how to deal with the jail the past two, three years, and some have come in at about half the cost of this proposal.”

In July, Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said there are issues with the 65-year-old facility.

“We have infrastructure that is crumbling and falling apart,” he said previously.

He cited previous jail studies that have concluded that Macomb County should leave the outdated facility and move to a more modern and energy-efficient jail.

The next step in regard to the ballot proposal is for the county Finance Department and Executive’s Office to come up with ballot language.  

Advertisement
Advertisement