Union approves special use permit for new Isabella prison – The Morning Sun
The new Isabella County jail passed a major hurdle in approving its latest proposed location on Wednesday night.
Union Township trustees have approved the special use permit for the property on the south side of Remus Road east of Isabella. The proposed new jail and sheriff’s office is southeast of Morey Courts and the Discovery Museum, and representatives for one have once again expressed concerns about the location.
Representatives from the Discovery Museum have requested that the special use permit be filed until a final hearing.
“We don’t think this is a fully transparent process and we think it could have an impact on the museum,” said Shelly Smith, museum board member. “We would like this to be taken into consideration. “
The museum’s board submitted an additional letter outlining that their concerns were less about traffic and noise than inmates and what impact a prison near a children’s museum might have on the number of visitors.
Isabella County Sheriff Michael Main said he contacted the museum’s board of directors and was responsible for the unanswered questions.
Some members of the commission expressed concerns about noise and detainees. Two community members asked what this might do for property values.
This was the second of three steps required by Union Township officials to authorize the county to build the new jail there.
The first was taken by the township planning commission at its June 15 meeting, when it recommended approval of the special use permit and approved the preliminary site review.
Final approval of the site review is expected by the planning committee perhaps as early as next month.
The location near Morey Courts is the second location the county has attempted to build and is a new jail and sheriff’s office. The first was at the corner of Summerton and Remus on the east side of US 127.
County officials agreed to buy the property last year and were hopeful that work on the jail would begin this summer. It was scrapped earlier this year after discovering that the water and sewer services available there were inadequate.
It also comes as questions emerge about the county’s financial situation.
At its last meeting, the county commission authorized the borrowing of $ 6 million from Isabella Bank to deal with what has been described as a cash flow issue. The commissioners also voted to move $ 850,000 from the overdue tax revolving fund, which is managed by the county treasurer.
The county bond attorney told commissioners that borrowing money to serve as a bridging loan was not unusual for counties undertaking large capital projects like a new jail. Commissioners also cited COVID-19.
County Treasurer Steve Pickens told commissioners the county’s cash flow issues had little to do with COVID-19. Pickens declined to comment further.
Two more developments could affect the county’s current plans to pay for the jail and sheriff’s office combined with tax revenue from the wind farm in north-central Isabella County.
At the end of last week, a state tax court ruled that wind farms were overtaxed and ordered some municipalities to reimburse their owners. It is not immediately clear what impact this will have on Isabella County.
At the same time, construction costs – especially for lumber – have skyrocketed last year, pushing up costs for new projects. This has shown signs of slowing down over the past week.
At the June 15 meeting of the Union Township Planning Commission, Commissioner Jessica Lapp asked a representative of the prison project team how higher construction costs would affect the new county jail. This representative said they are currently reviewing the situation and should have a better idea within two weeks of June 15.