See our Best of Detroit 2020 winners.

Boondoggled scaffold 

Whenever News Hits passes the Wayne County Building in downtown Detroit, we can’t help but wonder why the historic structure has been flanked with scaffolding since last summer. It’s not surprising that the place needs repair. The former courthouse, built at the end of the 19th century, has certainly seen better days. (Like when it made the big screen for a fleeting second in the 1990 Harrison Ford movie, Presumed Innocent.)

After wandering past the place for the better part of a year and continuing to wonder what the hell’s going on, we decided to punctuate our meandering musings with an actual question. (Hey, that’s why we make the big bucks.)

To our dismay and perhaps yours — that is, if you are a Wayne County taxpayer — we learned that the county has so far paid more than $230,000 to lease the scaffolding, though no one has set foot on the maze of bars and boards since it was erected last July.

“It certainly has been a waste of time and taxpayer dollars to have it up this long,” says Sharon Banks, spokesperson for Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, who took office in January. The scaffolding went up under the watchful eye of former honcho Ed McNamara. It’s not clear why the structure, which the county leases from The Farbman Group, was installed months before it was needed, says Banks.

What she does know is that the building’s roof is in dire disrepair. However, the county has yet to hire the construction company to fix the roof and do other maintenance work, says Banks. In fact, the whole selection process has yet to be worked out, so it could be some time before hammer and nail touch the troubled structure, Banks says.

In the meantime, as county officials struggle to deal with a projected budget deficit of $54 million, the public is stuck shelling out wads of cash for an idle scaffold. The bill was $30,000 a month for the first seven months; the deal is now being renegotiated, with Farbman suggesting a monthly fee of around $20,000.

“We could have bought the scaffolding for that,” says Wayne County Commissioner Ilona Varga about all the moola wasted thus far.

“No doubt this has gone on way too long,” says Banks. “This is one that is on the front burner to bring to closure.”

Or we could just buy the damn thing outright and call it modern art.

Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.

Read the Digital Print Issue

October 28, 2020

View more issues

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit