Houghton County Jail addition bill will be on November ballot

HOUGHTON, Mich. (WLUC) - Plans for Houghton County Jail updates took another step forward Tuesday night.

Houghton County Commissioners approved an estimated cost for the planned jail expansion. The total cost is estimated at $10.9 million.

Final approval for the project must come from voters on the November ballot.

"Another local group has brought up, 'no, we need to build a full-sized jail.' Well, we tried that eight years ago and we got 26 percent of the vote. So our commissioners are asking, is it time to ask that question again? From what our commissioners reported, it was pretty much unanimous. If we are going to vote for anything it is going to be the scaled-down thing. We're not going to vote for the grand building that we tried for years ago," said County Administrator Eric Forsberg.

The cost includes more than just the jail addition. Since the addition will take over the current parking structure, that structure will be demolished and a new lot put in across the street. The existing jail and court room will also be renovated.

"It is not about the 30-35 prisoners that we have over there now. It is about a community safety issue and it is an issue with the safety of the employees that have to work there. It is about the 30 more people that probably need to be in there and aren't because we don't have the room for them," said Forsberg.

Commissioners hope to cover language for the bill during their July meeting. There are also plans for a website to help the public learn about the project.

"Because the board has now approved that this will go on the ballot in November we want to make sure that the public is informed on what the project is, what the cost will be and what their out of pocket costs will be as far as taxes go," said project manager and design architect Karin Cooper of Upper Peninsula Engineers and Architects.

Commissioners will announce plans for public meetings and other ways to educate the public on this issue in the coming months.

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