To the Antrim County Board of Commissioners: DO YOUR JOB.
Antrim County needs a new jail. Full stop.
The Sheriff has told the Board that a new jail is needed. The people that work there know how bad it is. Anybody who has ever been in there is well aware that it is not a good situation.
The building is 70 years old.
The building is unsafe for the officers that work there. There are door locks that don’t work correctly. That is a BIG problem in a freaking jail. There are blind spots that are potential hazards for officers. There are places that inmates cannot be observed by officers, which is nuts.
The building is unsafe for inmates. The roof leaks so bad that parts of the jail flood on a regular basis. The plumbing is a complete mess. Toilets back up and flood areas with sewage all the time. Blind spots are not unsafe for only officers. They are also unsafe for the inmates. A large portion of inmates are dealing with substance abuse issues. There is a potential for a medical emergency in an unobserved area.
So, why not just fix the plumbing? Because the plumbing is built into the concrete that the building rests on. It would basically require tearing the jail down.
The Board knows all about this. They have heard it for years. At an October 20th meeting, the Board of Commissioners once again discussed these problems. This time, they heard about it from the employees that work in the law enforcement facilities. Public comment was offered by patrol deputies, corrections officers, and dispatch personnel. They all told stories of losing employees due to the dilapidated facilities, working in a sewage-filled area, and other significant safety concerns.
One deputy told a story about returning to the annex facility to find it filled with smoke due to an electrical fire. The annex building is really terrible. It looks like a wonderful place to buy meth. The deputy requested the fire department to come and deal with the electrical fire. ARRRG would recommend that any future fires at the annex be left alone to do their work. Burn that place to the ground. The county would be better off.
The Board heard from these public safety heroes, and then promptly let them know that they didn’t care one lick.
Karen Bargy proposed a resolution to set aside $2 million dollars to start the process for jail improvements. This was not a proposal to build a new jail. This was a proposal to just set aside funding for future planning and facilities projects requires for a solution to the jail problem.
Let’s go through all the stupid responses to this reasonable proposal.
Politician Jarris Rubingh castigated the Sheriff for not bringing this matter to his township board meetings. He told the Sheriff that he has to take this “to the people” for approval. Apparently he thinks that “the people” go to township board meetings.
Rubingh then threatened a hiring freeze if this proposal was approved, which is completely unfounded. The County is financially able to maintain staffing and take care of facilities. He then looked at the assembled officers and threatened that they might not get a pay increase next year. He is, of course, completely clueless how wages are governed. Each law enforcement union agreed to a contract this year that lasts three years and has pay increases stipulated in the contract.
Politician Jarris Rubingh literally does not know how contracts work!
He then stated that every tax payer deserves to have a say in this matter. He claimed that this proposal would require an additional mill in property taxes. No it wouldn’t. The County already has the money. This guy is ignorant.
Politician Jarris Rubingh literally does not know how budgets work!
Rubingh’s claim that such a large expenditure required a vote of the people was answered by Bargy. She pointed out that when the County building needed a facelift, the Board approved $3 Million in a ten minute meeting!
Several commissioners parroted eachother in saying the same thing over and over: where’s the plan? They refused to move forward at all, unless there is a plan. We need a plan. Where’s the plan?
Yo, dummies: THAT IS YOUR JOB.
Jason Helwig told the officers that they made a good sales pitch, but this has to be voted on by “the people”. A reminder that this is the same Jason Helwig that voted to spend $3 Million to fix the county building, and never once mentioned taking it to the people.
Rubingh: Where’s the plan?
Helwig: We need a plan.
Watrous: What’s the plan?
VanAlstine: We have no plan.
THAT IS YOUR JOB
These knuckleheads are so uneducated about all this. The county has already developed several plans. This happened with a lot of public input a decade ago. You can find it here. This plan was redeveloped by Byce and associates in 2019.
Watrous wanted to know where we would even put a new jail.
We have already been over this many times. The Board determined to keep the new jail in the same spot years ago. This was due to the proximity to the Courthouse. How do we know this and Watrous does not?
In a back and forth, Bargy explained to Watrous that this was an opportunity to put his money where his mouth is. Either we are taking this problem seriously or we are not. Watrous informed Bargy that she sounded like Nancy Pelosi. Helpful.
Lavanway informed the officers how much she appreciates them, and she guaranteed them that this would be taken care of in her time on the board. She then proceeded to vote against the proposal.
Lavanway is on the Capital Improvement Planning Committee. That is the same committee that refused to put the jail on their long term facilities plan. So, this little promise is (to use the technical term) bullshit.
There is only one thing that is keeping the County from addressing this problem: the Board of Commissioners. The Board has been purposefully avoiding this issue.
But, where is the plan?
The County has already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on developing plans. Architects, consultants, and expensive attorneys have already been paid and they have submitted plans. The Board has just avoided looking at the plans and avoided selecting a path forward.
In the end Helwig, Bargy, and Marcus were the only members to vote for the measure. The Board voted the proposal down because the plan that they are responsible for developing was never developed. Good lord!
The incompetence of this Board is offensive. What a farce!