State of Wayne County Address focuses on future post-jail fail

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans delivered the State of the County Address Tuesday night at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

The speech comes on the heels of the deal Wayne County struck with Rock Ventures to build a new state-of-the-art Criminal Justice Center.

"Wayne County will invest the first $380 million for the new Criminal Justice Center," Evans said. "Rock will pay the remaining costs which are expected to be more than $150 million. Most importantly Rock will bear the risk of all cost overruns. As we are painfully aware, cost overruns were the death knell of the failed jail project.

"We've all driven by that old rusting jail on Gratiot too many times. It stood out as our region's most prominent symbol of government failure and wasted tax dollars. 

"Thinking about it irritates me. Watching the news clips of the failed jail stings, driving by it makes me cringe." 

Evans also stressed the need to address and repair Wayne County's crumbling roads and bridges. 

"The emergency funding recently passed by the legislature is merely a drop in the bucket and should have come much sooner," Evans said. "At Wayne County we aren't waiting for the legislature or federal government. 

"We will not have enough funds to get all of our roads and bridges where they need to be. In fact, I expect to fall woefully short. And no matter what we do on the local level - we in the local and state government need to have a candid conversation about this important issue."

And along with improving our infrastructure the Wayne County Executive says we are paying the economic cost and social cost of not having an adequate regional transit system. 

"In our current system there are too many inefficiencies between DDOT, SMART and local transit providers," Evans said. "Our people in DDOT and SMART work hard and provide great service. But we built this like a patchwork quilt. It is horribly inefficient and more expensive than it has to be))

"So for better or worse I will present a new regional transit plan to the RTA board and I will make a simple request - review the plan and let's present it for public comment.

"If we are going to rebuild Wayne County and position this region for prosperity it will take a well-coordinated transit system on good roads. The wealth disparity in this county and this country is very real and it is widening due in no small part to a lack of transit. If we fail to address this issue of economic inequity - it will be at our own peril."