December 4, 2016
DEVELOPING STORY

Standish prison ordered to be closed, city shaken

John Fischer
The SMF sign
By Tim Barnum|Staff writer
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STANDISH — Today the city of Standish lost its largest employer and source of utilities revenue when word was handed down from the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) that the Standish Maximum Correctional Facility (SMF), which opened in 1990, will be closed before the end of fiscal year 2009.

The announcement is bleak for the Standish area, as 350 employees at the prison will be out of a job in the area per MDOC reorganization, which calls for the elimination of 1,000 corrections positions and 6,400 prison beds.

“Standish looked to that facility to stabilize a shaky economy in the late '80s after losing a significant employer, Riverside Products, that employed 4-500 people,” said Arenac County Clerk Ricky Rockwell.

For the government of Standish, the challenges presented are humongous.

According to city manager Mike Moran, the prison accounted for 45 percent of the city’s annual sewer and water revenue, paying $420,000 in water and sewer payments per year out of an approximate total of $914,000 collected every 12 months. In city sewer/water debt, Moran says the city will lose $1,400,000 in payments after the loss of SMF.

“There’s a lot of things we’ll have to research here,” he said. “We’re still feeling stunned. … We’re feeling pretty down right now.”

"How do you close a prison that is probably one of the newest in the state?" said Standish Mayor Kevin King. "I'm kind of in shock right now."

King added that he received no previous information regarding the closing, and only found out as media outlets approached him for interviews.

"When you take people's jobs away, they're leaving the state," he said.

Arenac County Clerk Rick Rockwell says not all employees of SMF will lose corrections positions altogether, since he says the corrections union is strong and senior employees will have the chance to be transferred to other facilities, but the chance that they’ll continue to live in the area isn’t promising.

“They’re going to follow their jobs, they’ve got to,” Rockwell said. “These are career people.”

The county, Rockwell added, will suffer from the closure financially, since a contract set up with the prison to provide meals to Arenac County Jail inmates was established a few years ago, but now the responsibility to provide meals for county inmates falls back into the lap of the county. He says the agreement cost about $50,000 per year, but prior to the agreement, the cost was about double to feed inmates.

“We’re going to have to figure out a system that meets state requirements to feed our prisoners (county jail inmates),” he said. “I do not believe that we’ll be able to contract with the private sector to provide breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week for $4 per person per day.

“The city is having the bomb dropped on them and the county is going to get the ripple effect.”

“Our local economy will really suffer,” Moran said, adding gas stations, restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses will take a hit. “All these things will feel the impact.”

Lincoln Township was also receiving state revenue payments from the state for housing a prison, but will no longer receive the approximately $13,000 that was paid to the municipality annually in six payments, Rockwell says.

According to a MDOC press release forwarded to the Independent from SMF, the closing of SMF is part of a reorganization that expects to reduce prison spending by $120 million in the state's 2010 fiscal year budget, which begins in October of this year.

Five MDOC Camps and two other prisons will also close up shop for good as part of the reorganization.

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I suppose our county "leaders" will now try to say they are just unable to provide all those wonderful services we have come to love without raising our taxes. Gee, what a surprise that will be. So, you lose the prison. Just cut expenses and Arenac County will be fine. Oh, and maybe all those wonderfully bright people who voted for Granholm will pitch in and pay more in taxes and fees voluntarily.

Friday, June 5, 2009 | Report this

Closing the Standish Prison is not a good move for anyone in my view. This decision will place more prisoners in fewer places possibly causing crowding and dangerous conditions for the guards. It also may mean the early release of prisoners in a society already threatened by a recessional economy. The removal of this newer viable facility will mean disastrous losses for the region's economy. Citizens of this county and state can only hope that the legislature will take a hard look at this closing and overturn this terrible decision.

Friday, June 5, 2009 | Report this

Did the City Fathers not know the state was looking to close some prisons ? I find it hard to believe that they sat by and didn't attempt to do anything. Now is not the time to try to get the Governer to keep the prison open. It's too little too late ! Am I the only one that believes that Standish can't survive on only a few gas stations and eateries ? We need more business in Standish, and not just something for the tourists. Last one out of Arenac county turn out the lights !

Wednesday, June 10, 2009 | Report this

Factorfiction,

Nobody knew the Governor had this planned including the Warden or the County Commissioners. I've attended every Commissioner's meeting for the last year and nothing was ever presented to them about the prison. I was told by a corrections officer that while rumors had repeatedly surfaced the last few months about it, the Warden of SMF was told they weren't getting shut down, and last month they were told they were lowering one of the wings of the prison to a level-IV to get even more prisoners, which they thought was going to secure their existence. It's just a sad, political move the Governor, how else would you explain ONE month to get all things in order? Not near enough time and you'll also notice, SMF doesn't fit the bill for a prison that should be shut down either with it being so new.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009 | Report this

As I read the articles regarding the closing of Standish Max and the layoff of approximately 100 Michigan State Police Troopers in the name of saving money for a cash strapped state I wonder if people know how many political appointees the governor has on her payroll. They number in the hundreds and most of them have salaries in the $75,000 to $100,000 range. Most political appointees are merely figureheads who know very little about the job they were appointed to and manage to interfere with the dedicated civil service employees who work for the State of Michigan. If the governor is really interested in saving money she could start with laying off the many political appointees who qualified for their job only because they made some contribution to her election campaign. Governor Granholm, it is high time you get serious about cutting costs where they really need to be cut. Your political appointees are not sacred cows.

As for Michigan Works having jobs for the laid off Standish Max employees, what a joke. Michigan Works is going to retrain laid off employees for jobs that do not exist. That is a cruel joke on all of those individuals who are losing their jobs.

Now lets get to the real reason that the State of Michigan is broke and state employees are being laid off. Why have so many employers either gone out of business or left the state? The Granholm administration has made Michigan a terrible place for employers to do business. We can start with high tax rates in both income and property taxes, an unemployment insurance system that is quite often a system to make employers pay for those who refuse to work (a system that is funded by unemployment taxes imposed on employers), an overzealous Department of Environmental Quality that has harassed companies until they simply left the state. When employers go out of business or leave the state that translates into fewer people with good paying jobs who remain here to help support state government through their income tax and sales tax contributions.

And finally, Residents of Arenac County and Standish, you now see how much Governor Granholm thinks of you. A few thousand people who she could care less about.

Thursday, June 11, 2009 | Report this

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