Fletcher: Consolidation a logical option for counties seeking new jail

If you don’t like thinking “outside the box” then don’t read any further because you’ll hate this. There is a wonderful opportunity for Alpena and Presque isle counties that just happened to turn up.

Both of the counties need a new jail and Alpena County needs new administrative offices and some court-related space. I know a little about this because I am well acquainted with the southern Rocky Mountain region and one of the counties there just built new county offices, a new jail, and new administrative offices all in one large complex. The cost was $35-40,000,000. The county in question has a population of around 30,000 and the population is declining. The major industries are mining and tourism. That’s a bunch of money for one small county.

I’m back to talking about the inevitable merging of governments and governmental functions in Northeast Michigan in the five counties of Alcona, Alpena, Montmorency, Oscoda, and Presque Isle. The center of population for this area is very close to the intersection of M-32 and M-65. Any consolidation is not going to happen simultaneously nor spontaneously. A gradual sharing of resources will, over a couple of decades, lead to mergers of governmental entities and eventually to one county, Thunder Bay County. No one will want to give up their old identity and it’s not necessary to do so. Simply put, a new entity will take over without prejudice to any existing location.

A new jail and judicial center in Lachine is about equidistant in time from both Rogers City and Alpena. The counties involved can figure the cost sharing of both financing and operations on some sort of usage plus proportion of equalized value. The spot is a good one because it is very close to the weighted population center of the five counties but still is in a good spot for these particular two counties. Best of all, we get to amortize the cost of one facility over two counties rather than two similar facilities each being financed by one.

Now I don’t know the condition of the jails in Alcona, Oscoda, nor Montmorency counties, but if they wished to join a regional center I’ll bet that it is cheaper than five individual lockups.This idea intuitively is cheaper than building five county-centered facilities.

This is a chance for keeping costs down through the sharing of assets of common use in the two and perhaps, in all five counties.

It’s time for the thinking to start about how to pay for our government in the future in the face of declining populations and revenue sources. “If you do what you always did, you’ll get whatyou always got.”And what you got was ever increasing taxes.

I believe the combination of services, like jails, will be cheaper in the long run and less cost to construct in the present.