Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Tuesday

June 17, 2014

Some county officials push for new jail

TRAVERSE CITY — Some Grand Traverse County officials appear eager to build a new multimillion-dollar jail, even before two federal jail consultants issue a report on their recent assessment of Grand Traverse County's criminal justice system.

Many local officials said they harbored no expectations about what National Institute of Corrections consultants Jim Robertson and Mark Goldman will recommend following their interviews with criminal justice system stakeholders and a tour of Grand Traverse County Jail.

Others, like county Commissioner Addison Wheelock Jr., appeared set on building a new jail — a project that could cost an estimated $30 million.

"I think without question we need to be moving forward with a new jail," Wheelock said during a meeting last week. "We need more capacity. We need to replace the infrastructure we have."

Robertson and Goldman concluded their visit to the county last week with a presentation to local officials. County Commission Chair Herb Lemcool said they did not offer any recommendations, only their impressions of the current jail.

"Mostly it was the fact that the jail was extremely well-run, well-maintained, but getting really old and you’re not going to be able to continue to do what you’re doing with what you've got," Lemcool said.

Lemcool said Robertson and Goldman will complete a report about their visit and send it to the Grand Traverse County Sheriff's Department by July 2.

The report sets the stage for several county officials' planned trip to Aurora, Colo., in August, where they will attend an NIC training program titled "Planning New Institutions."

County Commissioner Charlie Renny previously called the county jail "archaic and antiquated," but said he's not sold on the need to build a new facility, given the cost. Still Renny expects county officials to return from Colorado intent on doing just that.

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