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Wayne County Building Authority votes to cancel jail project contracts

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DETROIT (WJBK) -

The Wayne County Building Authority voted Thursday to stop all work on the new jail project and cancel the contracts.

Now there are a couple of things you should know Wayne County. First, we just blew $140 million plus interest over 30 years equaling $300 million.

Second, the company AECOM that was in charge of managing the site was put in charge of monitoring itself for six months, and then after that six months it was unclear who, if anybody, was looking after the county's interests on the job.

"So who's supposed to be looking out for those kind of things for we the people?" I asked Eileen Dehart from the Wayne County Building Authority.

"That's what I thought that our onsite project manager would do, and that's why the board members were adamant about having one, and there was like a year lapse that we did not have one," she said.

What we also learned is that the project was never fully funded with things like a fire suppression system left out of the deal.

So the project becomes $100 million over budget. Normally what happens in public works, the contractor simply comes back to the government and asks for more money. That is called an add on, which is perfectly legal. However, this time it wasn't happening because we were all looking.

"In a nutshell, we had government contractors who know what we wanted wasn't what we bid for and we can simply come back later and get another governmental body to rubber stamp more money," I said to James Saros from the Wayne County Building Authority.

"I'd be a fool to tell you that's what happened," he responded. "Is that one of the possibilities that happened? Of course."

"This happened before not too long ago when we bought the Guardian Building, which seemed like a pretty good deal at the time, and they said they needed $30 million to do the build out and get the floors ready for the county to move in. That was a lot of money, but, okay, reasonable given the size of the building and everything. But then they came to us again a little later and said we need another $30 million. That's when I started wondering why didn't you just come for $60 million to start with because you just expect this is going to fall into place," said Wayne County Commission Chairman Gary Woronchak. "I voted against the second $30 million, but it still passed."

"$300 million for a do over. Do you want to take ownership?" I asked Ficano on Wednesday

"At this point, there's still going to be a sale price on the land. That cuts into the cost," he said. "It's going to be a win-win for everybody."

So now the project is over. The plan from here is to sell the site, the courthouse and the other downtown jails to a developer and then rebuild them at the defunct Mound Correctional Facility. How we are going to get those hundreds of millions of dollars is anybody's guess because the county is broke and its ability to borrow is junk. Taxpayers, I'm sure somebody is going to be asking you for something.

Meanwhile, the Wayne County auditor general has given his report on the jail project to county prosecutor Kym Worthy. We were told her office is now opening an investigation.

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