By Mary Drier
CARO — Developing tourism in Tuscola County might get a “giddy up go” ahead Thursday.
In February, Senator Mike Green (R – Mayville) asked if Tuscola County Commissioners were interested in owning the former Tuscola Re-entry Center, and noted there was a strong interest by horse enthusiasts to develop trails and a park there.
Green asked for a closed session during Thursday’s 7:30 a.m. county meeting at the Purdy Building, 125 W. Lincoln St., Caro, to give an “update regarding potential acquistion of state property.”
By state law, meeting of a public body must be open to the public. However, there are some provisions that allow for a public body to meet out of the public’s view. One of the provisions in Michigan’s Open Meetings Act allows a public body to meet “to consider the purchase or lease of real property up to the time an option to purchase or least of real property is obtained.”
While a public body can meet in a closed session for specific reasons, they have to make decisions within a public forum. However, a public body does not have to take action immediately after a closed session. Sometimes a closed session is to gather more information with action taken later or not at all.
The Re-entry center is the former Camp Tuscola, which was a minimum security prision outside of Caro on Chambers Road. The site consists of about 600 acres that is owned the state’s Department of Management and Budget. The center’s land is also adjacent to Department of Natural Resources (DNR) property.
Although the offer was generous, commissioners had several questions : potential liability, costs, property lines, whether or not the buildings were to be included, and more.
Since February, Green has been gathering answers for those questions and working with various state departments on the issue.
The re-entry site started out as part of the Caro Center’s mental health complex. After the state closed some buildings, a minimum security complex was developed. When the prison complex closed, commissioners lobbied the state to find another use for the site. Through that effort, it was turned into a re-rentry center as a bridge for those who had been encarcerated to return to society.
Commissioner Craig Kirkpatrick has been a strong supporter of trying to find a use for the former re-entry center as possible recreational or horse riding trails, and has also spoken to equine clubs to gauge interest.
Mary Drier is a staff writer for the Tuscola County Advertiser. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.