Ojibway facility deserves support

Citing, among other reasons, the negative impact that the loss of jobs would have on the local economy, the Marquette County Board recently approved a resolution opposing the closure of the Ojibway Correctional Facility in Gogebic County.

The Michigan Department of Corrections has announced that the prison would close effective Dec. 1, taking with it at least 200 full-time jobs and an economic impact of $55 million annually.

“It’s a blow, obviously, to that part of the U.P. because of the loss of these 200-plus jobs,” Marquette County Board Chairman Gerald Corkin, said for a Mining Journal story on the matter.

Added Commissioner Bill Nordeen: “This is a terrible blow for them, this is an important thing for them, it really is.”

But the loss of employment wasn’t the only issue the resolution touched on. Commissioners also discussed the impacts of the closure on U.P. county jails – as the resolution states there could be a “significant future impact” on overcrowding at Gogebic’s county jail.

Members of the commission opined that a more thorough review process involving elected officials and others from the Upper Peninsula, should have taken place before so critical a decision was made, something we agree with.

The resolution calls for the state to conduct and fund an independent economic impact analysis before “any future Upper Peninsula prison is proposed for closure; including the Ojibway Prison.”

Further, it states Michigan should be required “to provide adequate financial resources and economic aid and a facility re-use plan to mitigate the economic impact, loss of jobs, loss of local tax revenues and subsequent overcrowding of local county jails.”

Lansing officials have gotten good over the years at making bad decisions that cost local units of government a lot of money, the direct impact of the loss of jobs aside, and then walking away as if they had nothing to do with it.

We hope the top DOC officials involved in this process hear this plea and act accordingly.