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Judge dismisses Ojibway lawsuit


November 29, 2018

Jean Nordine/Daily Globe

OJIBWAY CORRECTIONAL Facility, seen in this Daily Globe file photo, is scheduled to close Dec. 1, according to a Michigan Department of Corrections announcement in August. The facility, located in Marenisco Township, employs 203 people.


LANSING - A Court of Claims judge Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit brought by Marenisco Township to block closure of the Ojibway Correctional Facility.

Judge Stephen Borrello ruled the plaintiffs failed to "state a cause of action on which relief can be granted."

Michigan Department of Corrections Director Heidi Washington said, "We are pleased to see resolution to this question by the court, so the community and our employees have certainty and can plan accordingly as final preparations are made to close the facility on Dec. 1."

The facility had 203 employees and the lawsuit was an effort to keep those jobs in the area.

Two weeks ago, the Gogebic County Board of Commissioners agreed to spend $25,000 to help cover costs of the lawsuit.

Marenisco Township Supervisor Richard Bouvette pegged the legal costs to the township at the time at more than $70,000.

"We may lose," Bouvette told the county board of the lawsuit, but he said with $60 million to the Gogebic County economy at stake and people moving away every day, it was a chance that had to be taken.

Bouvette said Wednesday Marenisco officials were disappointed with the judge's decision and how long it took him to issue a ruling.

County board members and area officials contended the closure was announced before they had a chance to meet with officials in Lansing.

The suit sought an area economic impact study. The judge said the economic ramifications of the closing had to be considered by the DOC only at preliminary planning stages.

A county board resolution opposing the closure was earlier sent to Gov. Rick Snyder and Washington. Other U.P. county boards supported it.

The DOC closed the prison to save $19 million in the next fiscal year at a time when the state's prison population has been declining.

The DOC said there are no immediate plans for how the facility will be used.

The maximum security facility has an administration building, a warehouse and store, and buildings for education, meals, training and housing of inmates. The five housing units can accommodate up to 1,180 prisoners.

Washington added in her Wednesday statement, "We will continue to work with our employees as they make their transition to other facilities, while continuing to operate the Ojibway Correctional Facility safely and securely until the closure process is complete."


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