CHICAGO - The board of Wayne County, Mich. rejected a plan to move its jail and criminal justice facility to a state-owned former prison property near the outskirts of Detroit, its county seat.
The Oct. 16 vote means that the county will now likely restart construction on a bond-financed downtown Detroit jail complex that the county abandoned in June 2013 amid cost overruns that boosted the budget to $390 million from $220 million.
Officials could still opt to renovate existing jail facilities.
The county board voted 12-3 to pass the resolution to reject moving the jail to the Mound Road Correctional Facility. The county's decision sparked criticism from prominent Detroit businessman Dan Gilbert, who has offered $50 million to buy the half-built downtown site and related lots. Gilbert, like Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, warns that a downtown jail complex could stunt development.
The vote came a few weeks after a grand jury indicted former Wayne County chief financial officer Carla Sledge and two others after an investigation into the project's financing. Sledge, who retired in 2013 and now lives in Florida, is charged with two counts of misconduct in office and two counts of willful neglect of duty. She's accused of lying to the county board and building authority about the finances of the project.
Wayne County operates three jails and had hoped to save money by consolidating services and costs at one facility in downtown Detroit.
The county sold $200 million of taxable recovery zone economic development bonds in December 2010 through the Wayne County Building Authority, with debt service payments coming from cash rental payments from the authority to the county, according to bond documents. The county commission authorized a $300 million borrowing, and it still may issue the remaining $100 million.
The bonds constitute a full faith and credit limited-tax GO pledge of the county, but are subject to property tax limitations.