Commission performing due diligence in "two-track" jail evaluation process
A site-selection decision will soon be made regarding the new Wayne County Jail and I would like to give you an update on the selection process.
For much of this year, Wayne County has been evaluating two very different jail proposals.
One would complete the half-finished jail at Gratiot and I-375 in downtown Detroit, near Greektown. An additional $300 million has been estimated to complete the project, which began in 2011 but was halted four years ago due to cost overruns.
Walsh Construction, a Chicago firm hired by the county, had been given until late June to present its proposal on finishing the jail.
The other proposal would have Rock Ventures, a private company, build a new jail, juvenile detention facility and court complex a few miles to the north along I-75. In return, Rock Ventures would receive $300 million as well as ownership of the Gratiot site which would be developed into an entertainment district that would also potentially include a soccer stadium. It would also receive the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice, two nearby jails, and the current juvenile detention center.
Rock has estimated it would cost $420 million to build all the new facilities and it would pick up the remaining cost.
For now, the "two-track" evaluation process the county announced in March remains in place as Wayne County Commissioners, the Wayne County Executive's office and nationally recognized experts in jail and court construction continue evaluating each proposal's merits
County Executive Warren Evans has said the deciding factor will be what best provides the jail and court facilities the county needs, at the best value to our taxpayers. That is something I feel strongly about as well.
If you have any questions or concerns about either site, or about the site selection process, please let me know. You can contact me at the phone number, fax number and email address contained on this page.
Commissioner Scott appointed to national leadership position
Wayne County Commissioner Martha G. Scott has been selected to serve in a leadership position with the National Foundation for Women Legislators, the nation's oldest non-partisan organization representing female elected officials at the city, state and county level.
Scott, D-Highland Park, was appointed to the organization's nominating committee. In that position, she will help appoint future foundation leaders through the 2017 Board of Directors slate, ensuring that nominees represent the NFWL's general membership in terms of geography, office held and party affiliation. The nominating committee also helps appoint members and chairs to NFWL committees.
"I'm honored to have been selected, especially with regard to the organization's mission and history," Scott said. "I know it will be an important year."
Elected officials from throughout the U.S. will meet at the NFWL Annual Conference, to be held Nov. 14-18 in Minneapolis. At the conference, they will discuss a series of pressing issues facing the country in non-partisan fashion, share constituent concerns, build coalitions and develop innovative solutions to pressing problems.
Carrie Ruud, this year's NFWL chair, said the organization was pleased that Scott accepted a position on its nominating committee.
"She will play a crucial role in the continued success of the NFWL as we embark on our most exciting year yet," Ruud said.
Based in Alexandria, Va., the NFWL is a non-profit, non-partisan organization deigned to empower female elected officials by sharing their ideas and experience. It does not take ideological positions on policy issues. Additional information is available at www.womenlegislators.org.
Commissioner Scott opposes waste site expansion
Commissioner Martha G. Scott has been leading the fight against expansion of the U.S. Ecology hazardous waste treatment facility within her district.
U.S. Ecology has sought permission from the state to expand the facility so it can handle more than 10 times the amount of hazardous waste it currently handles, raising the level from the current 64,000 gallons to nearly 666,000 gallons at its facility on Georgia Street in Detroit near the Hamtramck city limits.
Residents have expressed concerns for many years about existing operations at the site and voiced specific complaints at a June public hearing before the Commission's Committee on Health and Human Services.
Commissioner Scott expressed her concerns that residents of Detroit, Hamtramck and surrounding communities could be exposed to hazardous waste as it is transported along their streets for pumping into the facility and again as liquid waste from the facility is dumped into Detroit's wastewater treatment plant. A similar process was halted in Pennsylvania after scientists determined local treatment plants were not equipped to handle this type of waste.
Scott also said she was concerned hazardous vapors could be released, polluting the air around the facility.
"This poses health concerns for all who live in the area, especially as it relates to the air they breathe, and we simply cannot allow communities to be dumping grounds just because they face economic disadvantages," Scott said.
In June the Wayne County Commission's Committe on Health and Human Services approved Commissioner Scott's resolution calling for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to reject the expansion plans.
Action by the state of Michigan is pending.
Building sales help county and communities
Wayne County continues to take stock of countyowned buildings, offering no longer used facilities for sale not only to improve county finances but put them on the tax rolls to help local governments.
This year, the county commission has approved the sale of a county-owned building facility at 640 Temple Street in Detroit. A portion of the 190,000 square foot office building was once used by the county clerk's office. Located near the new Little Caesars Arena, the sale is expected to help continue downtown Detroit's comeback.
The county commission also approved the sale of two buildings in Westland to private developers. Those buildings include the former Wayne County Library for the Blind at 30555 Michigan Avenue and the former Wayne County Drain Commission building at 3501 Henry Ruff Road.
Technological advances have made the former library obsolete while drain commission activities have been consolidated in another building.
In addition to putting both buildings on the tax roll, their sale and redevelopment is expected to substantially increase their taxable value. That makes it a win-win for both the county and cities.
Sale of all these facilities could not have come at a better time. That is because changes proposed in Washington could eliminate or severely limit Community Development Block Grant funds - essentially tax money returned from the federal government to help finance local projects, especially those projects that benefit residents of limited financial means.
All of these transactions show that the county is being responsible to its own taxpayers. They also show that the county is being a good steward of its facilities and a good partner to its local communities.
Progress continues to be made solving sex assault crimes
The Detroit Rape Kit Project has made substantial progress in reducing the backlog of unopened, untested rape kits.
In April, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy reported that roughly 10,000 kits have now been tested from the more than 11,300 untested kits that were discovered in a Detroit Police Department storage area. Most of those kits were discovered in 2009, though more than 500 additional untested kits were discovered more recently.
DNA matches from the kits have led to 86 convictions to date. Some 325 cases remain under current investigation and nearly 1,000 additional cases are awaiting investigation.
Discovery of the rape kits helped increase national awareness of the prevalence sexual assault in the U.S. Nearly 800 suspected serial offenders have been identified across 40 states, including Michigan, as a result of the Detroit project.
Last year, Wayne County Commissioners pledged $1 million from the county's general fund to help with the investigation.
The county also provided 5,000 square feet of space in county offices at the Guardian Building in downtown Detroit to help investigators, prosecutors and task force members with the investigation.
Rape kit investigations have also been supported by a grant from the National Institute of Justice, a branch of the U.S. Department of Justice. The project is also supported by grants from non-profits.
New exhibit highlights history of Detroit River
A new exhibit along the Detroit RiverWalk can help people learn about the history of the Detroit River and the Port of Detroit.
The exhibit, called the Portal View, has been placed in front of the Port of Detroit office at 130 Atwater Street. Inside the metal building is an interactive computer kiosk that lets visitors track ships traveling the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway, including their length and speed, through a link to the website BoatNerd.
The exhibit also includes a panel that opens to provide a panoramic view of the river, as well as lights and portholes from scrapped Great Lakes vessels.
Right next to the building is an anchor from the S.S. Greater Detroit. Recovered from the bottom of the Detroit River last year, the anchor is the last remaining artifact of the luxury steamer, which carried passengers between Detroit and Buffalo from 1924 to 1950.
The Portal View will be open throughout the summer and early fall.
Aquatic Center a place for all to enjoy cool summer fun
From the "Way Cool Wave Pool" and "SplishSplash Land" to water slides and swim lessons, there is plenty to do this summer at the Wayne County Parks Family Aquatic Center. The center is at 12600 Chandler Park Drive, within Chandler Park, in Detroit.
The center is open every weekend and daily from June 17 through Labor Day. Park hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day, though the pool closes at 6:30 p.m.
Admission for Wayne County residents is $2 for those age 2 and younger, $5 for those 3-12 and $7 for those 13 and older. A season pass is $70.
To learn more about the center visit Waynecountyaquatic.com or call (313) 822-7665.
Wayne County may be moving toward sale of Warren Valley Golf Course
A proposal to sell the Warren Valley Golf Course for a housing development has been put on hold while Dearborn Heights deliberates on whether it will instead purchase Warren Valley from Wayne County and continue its use as a golf course.
The county has been exploring selling properties as part of its financial recovery over the past few years. Among the properties it has been marketing is Warren Valley, a 36-hole course designed in 1922, located in Dearborn Heights at Warren and Beech Daly.
A developer was prepared to purchase the 255 acres for $1.8 million, and build 100-200 homes.
County Executive Warren Evans touted the proposal as turning "a countyowned, money-losing golf course into an attractive residential community that will create property tax revenue for both the county and Dearborn Heights."
However, opposition to the proposal erupted at a heated public meeting at the course in late February, with many residents turning out to voice concerns about the plan.
Evans since has said that the county would instead be willing to sell Warren Valley to Dearborn Heights, so that the residents most affected by the course could control its use and future.
County's financial outlook showing promising signs
After several difficult years, Wayne County's finances are now in a much better place.
Last September, the Wayne County Commission adopted a balanced county budget of $1.5 billion with $533 million allocated toward the county's general operating fund for the 2016-17 fiscal year. The county is now operating under that budget, which includes a slight decrease in spending from the previous year and a major $180 million decrease from 2014-15.
Commissioner Martha G. Scott, a member of the Commission's Committee on Ways and Means, has joined her colleagues in ensuring that the county continues to institute measures necessary for a balanced budget.
The county's structural deficit - once running at some $52 million - has been eliminated while the county's accumulated deficit of $88 million has nearly been eliminated as well.
For the first time in a long while, the county has been able to place additional funding into its pension system, which had been funded at only 47 percent.