Proposed Public Safety Center

Entrance Concept - Copy

7&4 News (Up North Live) recently took a tour of the current facilities. The news report shows the concerns and conditions inmates and officers contend with.


Q1: How will a Public Safety Center help the community?
A key element of the proposed design is a mental health unit. The unit would have a safe and secure space for up to four individuals who can then access existing programs such as Stepping Up, CMH, etc. Other benefits include:
  • Training room space for local fire departments and EMS units.
  • Increased and simplified access to the Sheriff’s Office and deputies.
  • Bringing all of County law enforcement under one roof would increase staff efficiency and improve communications, which can lead to increased safety for the entire County.

Q2: Why are we calling it a Public Safety Center? (4/24/23)
Only 1/3 of the proposed Public Safety Center would house the jail. The other 2/3 would house the Sheriff, the Sheriff’s staff, the dispatch center, the emergency manager, and a space that can be used as both a training room and an Emergency Operations Center. The current concept plan also includes space for secure mental health treatment.

Q3: Wouldn’t adding to the existing jail be cheaper than building something new? (5/5/23)
Most of the existing jail is nearly 70 years old, well past its expected life span. Bringing a 1955 jail into full compliance would have a substantial cost; plumbing repairs and replacement alone were estimated at $750,000 - $2,000,000 in 2022. There are significantly more complicated and costly issues as well, particularly issues with safety for corrections officers, staff, and inmates. 

Q4: What would a new Public Safety Center cost?  (10/12/23; rev. 4/29/24)
If construction begins in 2026, current total project cost is estimated at $32.5 million. That cost will go up $1 million–or more–every year that construction is delayed.

Q5: If the inmate count is 20 per day, why do we need 56 inmate beds? (6/15/23; rev. 9/25/23, rev. 10/12/23)
Though we currently have about 20 inmates a day, the booking population can range from an additional 10 to 25. Also, County jails are required to separate inmates into over 16 populations, e.g. violent/non-violent, adult/juvenile, male/female. The design of the proposed Center would bring us into compliance with state and federal segregation requirements and would provide flexibility for holding different types of inmates. A flexible building design is critical for a building with a lifespan of at least 50 years.

Q6: What millage is being proposed? And when? (10/12/23; rev. 4/29/24)
Up to 0.75 mills for up to 20 years. Your property’s taxable value is approximately half its sale value. If your property has a taxable value of $100,000, a property levy of 0.75 mills would increase that property’s taxes by $75. Though a November 2024 millage vote is possible, the Board of Commissioners has not made a final decision.

Q7: Would the County be paying for part of the project out of existing funds?  (10/12/23; rev. 4/29/24)
Yes. The County anticipates paying 20-25% of the cost up front. The Board of Commissioners will decide on the final amount when the ballot language is approved. The County may also pay part of the annual debt from revenues.

Q8: What happens if the voters don’t approve a millage? (10/12/23)
There will be two likely choices for the County:
          1)  Renovate the 70-year old jail, which will cost millions of dollars and still not bring us into full compliance with state regulations, or

          2) Transport inmates to other counties, which will be a significant cost.
If the County does nothing, the Michigan Department of Corrections could take over jail operations and invoice the County at high rates for their expenses.

Q9: If voters approve a millage, when would my property taxes go up? (12/7/23; rev. 4/29/24)
If a Public Safety Center millage is approved by voters in November 2024, the increase would be applied beginning with the winter 2025 tax bills. Most winter tax bills arrive in early December.