Community reacts to delay with $115 million Caro Center reconstruction

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CARO (WJRT) (03/13/2019) - A fresh study of the new Caro Psychiatric Hospital means a delay in the $115 million project that means a lot to the small Tuscola County community.

The reconstruction project was given the green light under the Snyder administration in 2017. Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration announced it was taking a second look at the future of the century-old hospital.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says its taking another look because of concerns over staffing, location and increased costs for a safe water source for the facility.

Local residents and leaders from Caro are hopeful the project will stay there intact when the study is complete.

"I do not feel our dearest governor and staff knows the economic impact this has on our community," said Joe Greene.

Greene, the mayor of Caro, was shocked to learn of the state's decision to pause the Caro Center reconstruction project, which would retain 115 jobs in the community.

Concerns about staffing and the rural location are part of the reason for the delay.

"We don't have an active permanent psychiatrist on staff currently at Caro," said Lynn Sutfin. "We have not been able to get one hired."

Increased costs for water access is also a concern, although Caro City Manager Michael Silverman said they have proposed issuing a bond.

Republican State Sen. Kevin Daley, whose district includes Tuscola County, said he's disappointed in the governor's decision to re-examine the need for the new hospital.

In a statement released to the media he said the state has already spent more than $3 million on the project.

Mother of three Erika Jeffrey works for a local business in Caro, where all of her kids attend school. She said Caro cannot afford to lose this project:

"I really feel like it needs to be something that needs to be completed, especially for our community," Jeffrey said.

Even with the reconsideration, the Department of Health and Human Services said the existing hospital will continue to provide services and that there's no intention at this time to close it.

The outside consultant will make a recommendation on the project by the end of June.