Antrim Co. Community Weighs in on Plans to Build New Jail, Other Administration Buildings

The Antrim County community is discussing options to replace or renovate the aging jail and administrative buildings.

The county says their current jail, built in 1955, just isn’t functional anymore. The jail and sheriff’s office on Grove and Cayuga is disjointed and inefficient and is degrading overall.

“Structurally, it’s sound, but functionally, it’s deteriorated,” said Pete Garwood, the Antrim County administrator. “We’ve got our deputies and detectives working out of one building that isn’t even connected, and our storage is in a whole other building.”

Garwood says the space’s cells are arranged in a linear row, as opposed to grouped in a cluster, which makes it harder for staff to patrol and make sure everyone is safe.

And while they’re at it, possibly a new courthouse, administration building and sheriff’s office too. These projects are all identified in the county’s Master Plan, which identified short term and long term goals.

Engineering and architectural firm Byce & Associates helped guide the plan by assessing what options were available for building relocation, renovation and construction.

The county presented the options at a meeting, packed with nearly 100 community members, on Tuesday night.

Those options identified in the Master Plan are Option F, Option G, Option H and Option I, described below.

Joe Short of Short’s Brewing Company says he wants to see any plans benefit downtown Bellaire and stimulate business.

“I’m a big fan of relocating and building off-site,” said Short. “That could allow us to re-envision the [administrative] campus, we’re running low on Downtown store fronts and it would be great to recommend new spaces to set up shop.”

Others aren’t supportive of the new plans.

“I don’t think its necessary with the jail that we already have,” said Julie Clark of Bellaire. “They’re not even 50% populated.”

Short’s ideas, and other feedback was all collected at a meeting Tuesday. Networks Northwest facilitated Tuesday’s meeting and will synthesize comments from the forum and send it back to Antrim County.

Here’s a complete breakdown of all the options, taken directly from that plan. These descriptions reflect the first phase of construction that the city wants to accomplish in the next five years.

Option F: Re-use existing jail and administrative campus 

All facilities remain would remain on the existing campus.

-The Grove Street Annex and bank would be demolished, and a new Sheriff’s Office and jail would be built

-The courthouse and administration building would be renovated.

Pros: This plan has the lowest cost estimate.

Considerations: Grove Street would need to be vacated to make space to reuse the existing buildings.

Estimated cost of first phase: $22,379,945 – $ 25,904,878

Option G: Relocate all county buildings

The county would gradually move buildngs to a remote site near M-88 and the Animal Control Office.

-The Sheriff’s Office and jail would be built first, and the new courthouse and administration building would be installed in a secondary phase.

Pros: This would allow the sale of current property and facilities and could make redevelopment of existing site.

Considerations: This is the most expensive of all the options.

Estimated cost of first phase: $24,271,080 – $ 28,206,931

Option H: Divided campus 

The jail and Sheriff’s Office would be moved to M-88 while the courthouse and administration building would be renovated at their existing location.

Pros: The demolition of the jail and Sheriff’s office mean more parking downtown.

Considerations: More costs to transport jail inmates between both campuses

Early surveys from the county data show majority support for a new jail at m-88 site.

Estimated cost of first phase: $24,732,921 – $ 28,743,665

Option I: Split campus and new construction 

The county would build a new jail and Sheriff’s office at the remote site and new administration building and parking lot would be built on east side of current county campus.

Pros: More parking or room for development

Considerations: More costs related to transport between facilities

Estimated cost of first phase: $24,550,022 – $ 28,531,106

At the meeting Cost, operational efficiency, infrastructure, employment, economic impact, and other considerations were discussed.

If you missed the meeting but want to comment on the project proposals, you can get more information on how to submit a comment here.