From inside jail that's "basically falling apart," Macomb Co. officials pitch for $375M new facility

A sheriff and county executive erred on the side of theatrics in their pitch for millions in funding.

They held a press conference for a new jail inside the current jail.

"Right now, you are in the original jail from 1954," said Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham. "We are still using this facility."

It's not your typical site for a press conference. Then again, how typical is it to be operating a jail going on 70 years old? Lacking some of the basic necessities officers need to watch over inmates, the officials say they're desperate for funding.

"We have an outdated facility. We have a facility that is basically falling apart," said Wickersham.

Joining the sheriff was Mark Hackel, former sheriff and current Macomb County Executive. 

"The problem we're dealing with today was the same problem we dealt with back then," Hackel said, "but the 'today' issue is very similar to what it was back then, but the costs got higher."

The price tag of those costs is not a pretty number either.

"So you're talking about a $400 million fix."

The question asked by the officials is 'how do you pay for' that fix? One possibility is a millage increase. But that means a ballot provision and approval by voters. The math would come out to a little less than $100 a year per person.

"In fact, they've come up with a .98 mill," Hackel said. "A .98 mill would probably cost the average homeowner about $98 a year."

About .78 mills would go toward the $375 million new jail, while .2 mills would help pay for other costs.

While basic upgrades like air conditioning are obvious, the county is dealing with less-evident problems as well. Sheriff Wickersham said his deputies are dealing with inmates with more mental health issues. Those issues can't be adequately addressed with the current facility.

RELATED STORY: Macomb County planning new $370 million jail project

Back in March, Wickersham told FOX 2 the jail isn't built to account for those concerns.

"Those officers are going back every hour or less to go check on inmates," he said. "The inmates know we're coming, and they know when we're gone. The bad things that are happening, are happening between those times. There is no direct line-of-sight, not supervision."

Officials want the millage proposal on the August 2020 ballot.

"This jail is our issue to fix and to deal with. Meaning this isn't a state issue, it's not a federal issue," Hackel said. "It's a Macomb County issue."