CHICAGO — The Wayne County, Mich., Board of Commissioners last week gave preliminary approval to $700 million of debt to build a large new criminal justice complex in downtown Detroit.
The proposal would include at least $70 million of recovery zone bonds, tapping the county’s full allocation of the stimulus debt.
Another $100 million of recovery zone bonds might be made available if Michigan agrees to allocate the money to the county, one official said.
The county would issue the debt before Dec. 31 to take advantage of the stimulus bonds as the debt program is set expire at the end of the year.
The borrowing would include $300 million for a jail and $400 million to consolidate all county courts into one building.
The debt would most likely be issued through the Wayne County Building Authority.
County commissioners Thursday approved a measure to issue notices of intent to issue two series of 30-year bonds for the project, a $300 million series for the jail and a $400 million series for the court.
Commissioners will hear more details on the plan and a fiscal impact analysis on Thursday.
The full commission is expected to revisit the proposal Nov. 4.
The proposal could attract opposition from critics who note the county faces an $85 million deficit in a roughly $2 billion annual budget.
Proponents, including Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, said the move would save the county $20 million to $30 million annually by consolidating costs.
The county board postponed until Nov. 4 voting on related measures, including one that would give the county chief executive officer, chief financial officer and the Building Authority — not the county board — the ability to select the underwriting team, according to Dwayne Seals, the county’s chief fiscal analyst.
“The commissioners might have a problem with that,” Seals said. “So [last Thursday] they said, 'Let’s just give notice of intent [to sell the bonds] and we’ll talk about the other issues later.’ ”
Seals said his team would likely present an analysis of the proposal to county commissioners this week. So far part of the problem has been a lack of information, he said, including whether the proposal would include the demolition of two or three buildings.
“We received the proposal on Thursday evening and Friday we started looking at it,” he said. “We have some hypothetical numbers, but don’t have a lot of information.”
The county is eyeing at least two sites for the new complex, both in downtown Detroit. One would be near the site of the Detroit Police headquarters, which the city plans to soon vacate to build a new headquarters in an old MGM Grand Casino building. The city plans to issue $106 million of bonds to finance the new headquarters.
Detroit is considering closing its jail and moving its inmates to the county jail, according to local reports.