DETROIT, MI – Like it or not, Wayne County looks like its moving forward with former Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano’s jail project.
The jail project has been stuck in limbo since construction was halted in June of 2013. At that time, a 60-day suspension of construction on the $300-million jail project was imposed after estimated costs soared to some $391 million. Major construction work has never resumed at the site after that.
Now Wayne County is evaluating a proposal from a Walsh Construction Company-led design-build team in response to its Request for Qualifications (RFQu).
This evaluation is a positive next step toward completion of the jail at the Gratiot site. Although the County anticipated receiving additional responses to its RFQu by the Nov. 18 deadline, the County is pleased to receive a qualification proposal from a nationally recognized construction management firm.
“This has the potential to expedite the process and that’s good news,” Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans said. “Walsh is a renowned firm with expertise in building correctional facilities. We will evaluate their response to determine whether the team they’ve assembled is qualified to complete the jail at Gratiot.”
A favorable evaluation of Walsh’s response to the RFQu could allow negotiations directly with the firm to commence. This would allow the County to move forward in advance of the original timeline contemplated. The County anticipated beginning negotiations with a design-build entity in the spring or summer of 2017, after a lengthy design-build Request for Proposal (RFP) scheduled to start in January. Potentially allowing the County to identify the design-build entity that will complete the jail much earlier in the process is a welcome development.
“The goal has always been to get a good offer from a quality design-build team to complete the jail. We’re now in a better position to do that,” said Executive Evans. “The Gratiot site remains the best option for Wayne County taxpayers. The prudent thing is to move forward and get this done.”
Working with its Owner’s Representative, Carter Goble Associates LLC, the County issued the RFQu in September. While the County engages in the process of vetting Walsh, it retains the right to issue a design-build RFP in January, as previously scheduled.
Walsh is one of the largest correctional facility construction managers in the nation with an office in Detroit. Negotiations with Walsh could come as early as January, but cannot begin until the County finishes its evaluation of Walsh’s RFQu response. Any contract with Walsh would need approval of the Wayne County Commission and the Wayne County Building Authority.
“We welcome this vetting process of Walsh, it’s a good opportunity to move the jail project forward,” said County Commission Chair Gary Woronchak. “We’re obviously going to do our due diligence and scrutinize carefully Walsh’s response to the RFQu. This, however, is a pragmatic step to position the County to do what’s best for its taxpayers.”
The evaluation of Walsh comes just days after the Mannik & Smith Group completed a site condition assessment that confirmed that the prior construction at the site is structurally sound and suitable for restarting construction next year. The firm completed a visual and physical inspection of the structural steel, concrete and masonry onsite.
Under the previous administration, an estimated $151 million was spent in construction, acquisition and design of the jail with much of the work at the site completed underground. The project was halted in June 2013.