MUSKEGON, Mich. (WZZM) -- A consultant says Muskegon County should build its new jail next to the existing building.
The county commission Thursday heard from John Mrak Sr. from RQAW Corporation, the consulting firm hired to consider new sites for the county's new jail and detention facility.
The current Muskegon County jail, located next to the Hall of Justice, is 50 years old, overcrowded and has frequent maintenance problems.
Mrak told county leaders he considered 88 possible solutions, but only one would be his recommendation -- building a new jail next to the current facility. Portions of two county parking lots would be needed for the building, and Pine Street would possibly have to be closed. The plan would allow portions of the current jail to be renovated and repurposed.
"Build the new jail first," Mrak told commissioners. "Move inmates out of the existing jail so the existing jail could be renovated, but do the new building first.
"The base bed compacity would be 450 beds and could be expandable to 550. The total project would be in the range of $25 million to $37 million."
Mrak also suggested using the former Craig school as the county's new juvenile detention facility. He says it is the best available facility for housing juvenile offenders, and would be $3 million less expensive than building a new center. The site, though, would be across the street from residential housing.
"As long as they stay over there I have no problems with it," says Charlotte Pierre, who lives in the Nelson neighborhood where the school is located. "Maybe they could put a fence around it, and add police patrols to make sure everyone is in."
Muskegon County Sheriff Dean Roesler says the recommendations are only a framework for leaders to start more specific discussions.
A group of opponents is challenging county leaders on the need for a new jail. They argue the courts and police agencies should spend more time developing alternatives to incarcerations for people who break the law.
Next week, members of the county commission's jail committee will meet to go over specific costs of the jail project and where they would get the funding.
Reported by Jon Mills in Muskegon