Tuscola County officials: Decision to pause Caro Center project politically motivated

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CARO (WJRT) (3/14/2019) - Some local officials in Tuscola County are questioning whether politics is driving Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration to halt reconstruction of the Caro Psychiatric Hospital.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday that the $115 million project to replace the century-old hospital is on hold while the state commissions a study of the project.

State officials say they are taking a fresh look at whether Caro is the best place for the facility, but local officials believe the pause is politically motivated.

The Tuscola County Board of Commissioners met on Thursday and added an agenda item to discuss the state's change in plans. The move shocked commissioners and Controller Michael Hoagland.

He said the Caro Center is the second largest employer in the county and if the state is now thinking about building the new hospital elsewhere, it would have a devastating effect on the region.

"I guess you could say I was pretty shocked that it happened this quick," Hoagland said.

Former Republican State Sen. Mike Green worked to make sure the new hospital would be built in Tuscola County. Former Republican Gov. Rick Snyder participated in a ground breaking ceremony in October.

"Is this Republican-Democrat politics? I don't know," Hoagland said. "I can't read her mind, but I think probably putting it in a different place would be helpful to some folks in Lansing."

One person who is in Lansing now is Green's son, State Rep. Phil Green who also believes the work stoppage is politics, saying Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has "shown that she is interested only in helping the residents of areas that were instrumental in electing her."

The state contends staffing issues, concern over patients not being close to family members and the funding of a water line to the new hospital are the reasons another consultant will come in and look at whether the project should proceed in Caro.

Hoagland told board members on Thursday that the water issue has been resolved. Taxpayers have already spent $3 million on the Caro project.

"Every issue that they threw at us, why they wanted to move it, we resolved and the issues weren't really true," Hoagland said.