Genesee County pursuing $115 million Caro Center psychiatric hospital project

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GENESEE COUNTY (WJRT) (5/15/2019) - If the Caro Center psychiatric hospital doesn't stay in Tuscola County, Genesee County would welcome the $115 million project with open arms.

Some Genesee County commissioners, lawmakers and a Genesee County judge have been meeting weekly to discuss efforts to bring the hospital to the county.

On Wednesday morning, the Genesee County Board of Commissioners made it official by passing a resolution in support of the effort to build a psychiatric hospital in Genesee County.

All of the commissioners think Genesee County is the best location to service people coming from multiple areas and they also believe the county has the biggest need.

Genesee County Public Works Committee Chairman Martin Cousineau said they've had the benefit of having data already collected for other projects that helps support why Genesee County would be a great fit for the psychiatric hospital.

"Right now we're just looking at getting the ball rolling and as I stated earlier, my concern is not political," he said. "This a need, and that's how we want to approach this is -- that the needs of the people of this area, plus the greater Michigan, would be better served."

The century-old Caro Center has been located in the Tuscola County community since its inception. Former Gov. Rick Snyder's administration planned a $115 million replacement project at its current site and he took part in a groundbreaking last fall.

However, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration halted the project earlier this year and hired a consultant to study whether Caro is the best location for the project.

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon has openly advocated for moving the project due to Caro's rural location and difficulty attracting qualified staff, according to emails obtained by ABC12.

Tuscola County leaders and residents are waging a spirited campaign to convince Whitmer to keep the project in Caro. The Caro Center is the county's second largest employer with more than 500 direct jobs.

Genesee County commissioners understand there is a potential political fight that will play out but that's not where their focus is.

"You're always going to have a political fight and this is going to be state money, and every community is going to come forward and say they're better, but we sincerely believe we have the best chance," Cousineau said.

Genesee County commissioners plan to meet again Friday to develop more specifics of their proposal to attract the hospital project, including a proposed location. Several potential sites are under consideration Wednesday.

One possible site being discussed in Genesee County is the vacant Meijer store on Pierson Road in Flint, according to several sources.