After about nine months of discussing the options for a new Muskegon County jail and juvenile transition center, a committee has made the decision to recommend the final plan from the engineering firms to the Courts and Public Safety Committee, and then to the full Muskegon County Board of Commissioners.
Joseph Mrak, senior vice president of RQAW engineering firm, presented the final plan to the Jail and Juvenile Transition Center Committee (JJTCC) at its meeting on Thursday, Feb. 21. The plan includes building a new jail across Pine Street in the Michael C. Kobza Hall of Justice employee parking lot and attaching it to the current jail by a tunnel. The proposal also includes building a new juvenile center on the county’s South Campus. That facility will be on the corner of Spring Street (now vacated) and Pine Street. The building’s front will face Delaware Street.
Mrak told the committee, which is made up of county officials, that the final plan will include a jail with 544 beds in both the new facility and the old jail, which will be gutted and redone.
There were three options for the new facilities: a base bid, alternate one and alternate two. While each step up is more costly, Mrak recommended doing the full project with alternate two.
“From a financial standpoint, we believe we can afford the whole thing,” Mrak said.
At the last JJTCC meeting, Mrak presented both a tunnel and an overhead walkway for connecting the new jail to the current one, and the committee asked that Mrak look further into both options so they could make the right decision financially and structurally. Mrak came back to the committee recommending the tunnel, as it is cheaper by around $100,000, is safer for staff and will include less maintenance. The underground utilities will have to be moved, which has been included in the budget.
After Mrak presented the final plan, Finance and Management Services Director Heath Kaplan showed the financial side of the project. According to Kaplan, this project can be done without the need for a millage, as the county will put up $6 million in cash set aside for the project and finance the rest by selling about $35 million in bonds to investors. The county will set aside $1 million to pay interest on the bonds.
The bonds will be paid off in 25 years, as Kaplan suggests that is the “sweet spot.”
Former Muskegon County Sheriff Bob Carter told the committee that if it is going to do this project, he didn’t want to “piecemeal” it.
“If we’re going to the board, we want to get it done,” Carter said.
The committee unanimously approved a motion to bring the proposal to the Courts and Public Safety Committee at its meeting on Tuesday, March 5. The commission will vote on whether to recommend the plan to the full County Board of Commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday, March 12. If the full board accepts the plan, the engineers will move on to the design phase of the project.