Houghton County approves payment agreement on property for potential county jail

Portage Township’s First Apostolic Lutheran Church will be owned by the County but maintained by the church owners until 2026
The Houghton County Board of Commissioners approved a purchase agreement that gives them...
The Houghton County Board of Commissioners approved a purchase agreement that gives them ownership of property that they hope to use for a new county jail.(WLUC)
Published: Sep. 30, 2022 at 7:22 PM EDT
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HOUGHTON, Mich. (WLUC) - Houghton County is another step closer to a new county jail.

The First Apostolic Lutheran Church on Sharon Ave. in Portage Township could be the next site of the Houghton County Jail and Sheriff’s Office.

The Houghton County board met at a special meeting Thursday where commissioners unanimously approved a $1.2 million agreement to purchase the site, using federal COVID-19 relief money.

“That property came to our attention last year and we started looking at it and started discussions with the church board, and we came to an agreement to purchase it,” said Houghton County Board Vice Chairman Roy Britz.

Talks between the board and the church had been stalled since 2021 due to rising construction costs while the church constructs a new facility.

However, this new agreement would allow the county to own the building and the church owners to use and maintain it until August 2026.

“As owners, we obviously have to insure it for property insurance and so on,” continued Britz. “Any plowing, any little mechanical things that might go wrong, they’re going to take care of all that stuff.”

No jail can be built without public approval through a millage.

The county is also working with Portage Township to annex the property into the city limits.

“If we have not built a jail in nine years as part of the township agreement, the 425 Act and annexation come off the table,” added Britz. “I can only hope within nine years the public starts to understand that we really need a jail here.”

Houghton County Sheriff Joshua Saaranen says the current jail, built in 1963, is too small and has outdated infrastructure.

“We are normally running at about capacity and we have been overcapacity in the past,” said Saaranen. “And the lack of available space could potentially put us in violation in the future. The Sharon Avenue property is a good first step in finding a new piece of property where a facility could be placed.”

A millage for the jail is not on the Nov. 8 ballot this year.