Cost increases to more than $18 million
By Jim Newell
After putting the development of a new Orion Township Hall and police station on hold this spring, the township is now moving forward with plans to build a new facility on township owned land.
And the development has been rebranded as the Orion Township Municipal Complex.
The project includes nearly 9,000 additional square feet and more than $3.3 million in increased costs from the maximum the township had planned when it put a notice to issue $15 million in bonds for the project.
The updates came during an Orion Township Board of Trustees workshop on Thursday, in which the board heard from Supervisor Chris Barnett, Scott Reynolds of Auger Klein Aller Architects and Sam Ashley, vice-president of Cunningham-Limp development and construction company.
“It’s been a lot of work. Really, we’ve been working on it for two years now. I felt like we were really prepared. The board asked great questions and were really responsive to the presentation,” Barnett said.
The price tag for the new Orion Township Municipal Complex: $18.382 million.
That’s up from July 2019, when the township issued a public notice declaring its intent to issue up to $15 million in bonds to pay for a new township hall and police station.
Township officials and their construction team have since rebranded the development as the Orion Township Municipal Complex because they will be “activating” the 76 acres of township-owned land on Joslyn Road between Greenshield and Scripps roads.
“It’s expensive, it’s a big project, but it’s not just the township hall. We’re trying to change the narrative because it’s more than that. It’s really the Orion Municipal Complex. It’s a 76-acre park. It’s a trailhead. It’s a police station. It’s future athletic fields. It’s a township hall, it’s a community room. It’s a lot of things. It’s something that’s going to be there for the next century,” Barnett said.
The township board will meet on Aug. 17 to make a final decision on whether or not to proceed with the bond sale. If the board decides to move forward, the township could break ground on the project as soon as Aug. 26, with Sept. 1 planned for the day when it would issue the bonds.
“The board hasn’t always agreed on everything about this, but I give a lot of credit to every member of the board because they’ve really been engaged for the past year asking tough questions,” Barnett said. “I’m pretty confident that on Aug. 17, when the final approval’s in front of the board, I’m confident that it’s going to move forward. We’ve provided all the information they’ve asked for, answered all their questions all they way through. Probably even given more information at times than what they might have needed or wanted.”
The project will include a new township hall (originally planned for 38,441 square feet) with an additional 8,000 square feet of basement, a police station with an additional 820 square feet, development of a half mile of roads/entrances, parking lots, including a fenced lot for the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Orion Twp. Substation and the necessary utilities and infrastructure for the project.
After taking soil borings, it was determined that a full basement would be needed to prevent differential settling of the township hall portion of the development.
“We’re going with a full basement when before it was a partial basement,” Barnett said. “That’s for the long-term structural integrity of the building. The increase in cost is about $111 per square foot, which it’s almost impossible to build for that price. So, there’s great value there.
“I think it’s important to say that the building we’re in now is a Class C building, almost like residential, and the new building is a Class A commercial building,” Barnett said.
He adds that most people who have been in the current township hall, “except for few people leading the charge” against the new development, see the need for a new facility. The current facility was built in 1974 with an addition in 1996 and has current footprint 20,000 square feet.
The additional space in the police station gives the deputies “a little more breathing room.”
The municipal complex will occupy roughly five acres of the land. Township officials said they plan to develop the remaining acreage into park land and open/green space. Some acreage cannot be developed because it’s in wetland.
“It’s in our parks and recreation master plan to build additional fields and trailheads and recreational amenities, so it’s not just a township hall,” Barnett said.
Barnett said the township and its construction team have budgeted conservatively for the project, so they believe they will have left over funds.
“We’re doing everything we said we were going to do last year when we talked to the residents and board in August, and then again in September and October: we’re building the building without increasing taxes,” Barnett said. “The first study that was done that showed we needed more space was actually done in 1988. So, it’s 32 years in the making.
Plans to pay the debt service on the municipal complex include using the host fee (about $500,000) from the landfill in Orion Township, permits from the marijuana grow facility on Premier Drive (estimated at $250,000 or more per year) and charging “rent” to departments that bring in revenue, such as the police, parks and recreation, DPW and Building Department.
Tearing down the old township hall is estimated to cost around $100,000, but as of the meeting the board did not know where the township would get the funds to demolish the old hall.
The site would be returned to a “natural state” and likely be given to parks and recreation for use or development, but officials said they would explore those plans later.