U.P. lawmakers: MDOC tearing down more than sewer system with latest Ojibway action

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Ed McBroom and Rep. Greg Markkanen on Friday expressed disappointment in recent action by the state Department of Corrections (MDOC) to remove the sewer system from the site of the former Ojibway Correctional Facility in Marinesco.

Local and state officials have been exploring options for alternative uses for the facility, which the department shuttered in 2018.

“Despite its assurances to the contrary, the department has moved forward with its plan to remove the sewer ponds from the Ojibway Correctional Facility site without even considering changes to the system that could have addressed some of the department’s concerns,” said Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan. “I am disappointed and frustrated that the department has not been willing to work with lawmakers and locals on an amicable solution for all.”

McBroom said MDOC indicated last March that it could no longer afford to maintain the unused sewer ponds after it had initially stated at the time of the facility’s closure that it would keep them open.

The lawmakers reached out to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) to determine other options, and officials within EGLE said they were willing to discuss modifications of the system’s permit, but MDOC had not consulted them.

State Rep. Greg Markkanen echoed McBroom’s frustration.

“Gogebic County is still feeling the negative effects of the prison closure,” said Markkanen, R-Houghton. “The state should be taking all steps necessary to help this region rebuild and explore opportunities for replacement. Instead, the department is taking steps that will make the facility more difficult to repurpose.”

The lawmakers and local community leaders believe removal of the sewer system will make other potential uses, such as a regional jail or training facility or some other private use, more expensive for the new users.

“The extreme speed of the closure process alone seems suspect,” McBroom said. “How often has anyone heard of a big project like this being let out, bid, selected and finished in two months? That is why I tried to delay it by filing an affidavit against the department in an attempt to get an injunction.”

Unfortunately, McBroom said the injunction was not granted and removal began this week.

“We will continue to push Lansing to remember the collateral damage of these actions on our communities,” said Markkanen. “We won’t stop working with local leaders to bring opportunities to the people the state has left behind.”

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