Ficano Stays Upbeat On Jail Project Even As Grand Jury Investigates
DETROIT (WWJ) Is Wayne County executive Robert Ficano concerned about the one-person grand jury looking into the failed Wayne County Jail project?
Court reports show Prosecutor Kym Worthy has tasked a one-person grand jury with looking into whether one unnamed public official showed “willful neglect of duty, conspiracy, fraud, misconduct, false statements relating to public finances, and/or financial condition in Wayne County.”
Construction has been suspended, but Ficano is staying upbeat on the project that reportedly costs $1 million a month while still unbuilt. The project shut down when construction plans went $91 million over budget.
The Wayne County Building Authority, with all members appointed by Ficano, was charged with overseeing the project.
“When all is said and done, the taxpayers will be pretty pleased with what they see,” he told WWJ’s Vickie Thomas. “At this point, what they had to do was come back with the final number and we didn’t agree with the number … We’re in a different position now where we have different options.”
Ficano said he’s not worried about the investigation.
“We’re going to fully cooperate and at the same time, we anticipate that there will be nothing there,” he said to Thomas. “At this point, you know if you did something or didn’t do something, to me it’s confusing even what the allegations are.”
Will Wayne County bail on its half-finished new jail?
The Wayne County commission authorized up to $300 million in bonds for the project, but the Detroit News reported the state has no confidence the county, with a $125 million budget deficit, can repay that much. About $140 million has already been spent, reports show.
Touting the project last fall, Ficano said the new jail was supposed to save the county $20 million a year, when it opened in 2014, consolidating three county jail facilities. But Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon expressed concerns that it wouldn’t be big enough.
There’s also a question about whether re-opening the shuttered Mound Correctional Facility would make the new jail redundant. The hope is the Mound facility could be renovated and expanded for much less than it’s costing to finish the new jail – allowing the county to stay within the $200 million bond issue it sold to fund the project.