Orion Twp. Board holds presentation on a proposed new township hall

By Jim Newell

Review Editor

Crowded offices, leaking walls, water damage to ceiling tiles, mold on the walls and wood beams supporting the basement ceiling in utility rooms.

And when it rains, the township boardroom carpet becomes damp with moisture, said Orion Township Supervisor Chris Barnett.

These are just some of the issues that Orion Township officials point to when citing the need for a new township hall.

On Monday during the board of trustees meeting, officials presented the case for new township hall and clarified some of the misinformation they say are being circulated in the community about the township’s public notice of intent to issue $15 million in bonds to pay for the hall.

“There’s a lot of incorrect information out there,” said Orion Township Supervisor Chris Barnett. “The plan we’re presenting tonight is designed not to raise your taxes.”

The township’s plan would be to use “creative revenue streams” to pay for the debt service for the proposed new township hall, which includes $500,000 annually from the host fee for the Eagle Valley Landfill.

The township would also use money from marijuana permits – estimated to generate around $250,000 per year – from the grow facility approved for construction and operation on Premier Drive off of M-24.

The township also set aside $2.5 million for a new hall, or to renovate the existing hall – money it would use right off the top before using the bond monies, officials said.

The township’s annual debt service on a 20-year, $15 million bond at 2.75 percent interest rate would be $991,000. It would be $661,000 if the township only used $10 million.

“If we were looking for a tax increase, we would put it on the ballot,” Barnett said. “Our goal is really to do this without raising your taxes and I don’t know many other communities that could do that.”

Discussion on the proposed township hall is on the agenda for the Aug. 19 township board meeting.

“That’s where we’re actually going to get the hard costs,” Barnett said.

Barnett also points out that the township doesn’t have a “mortgage” right now, and that the township has been frugal with taxpayer money.

“Of your total tax responsibility as a resident,” Barnett told the audience on Monday, “2.6 percent of (your bill) comes to the general operating fund (of Orion Township). The plan we’re presenting tonight is to not actually increase your taxes.”

The township has commissioned four space allocation feasibility studies – in 2002, 2007, 2008 and 2018 – to assess the needs of each township department. All of the studies concluded that the township is growing and needs more space at township hall.

The original township hall was built in 1974 with an addition in 1996, and has a current 20,000 square foot footprint.

Under the estimated probable project costs, renovating the existing township hall to meet the anticipated growth estimates would cost $9.15 million to expand to 38,875 square feet.

The township would also have to spend about $1 million to relocate employees during construction and then move them back into township hall if the township chose to renovate the existing hall, said Sam Ashley of Cunningham Limp, the township’s construction management company on the project.

Building a new township hall is estimated to cost $11.4 million for 38,441 square feet.

If the township proceeds with the plan, it would build a new hall on the 76 acres of land the township owns on Joslyn Road, just north of Greenshield Road. That acreage was acquired for $96,000 and a land swap with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Orion Twp. Substation

One of the areas that township officials said is in desperate need of additional space is the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office – Orion Twp. Substation. The current 3,600 square feet doesn’t meet the department’s needs.

Scott Reynolds of Auger Klein Aller Architects said the sheriff’s office needs about three times its existing capacity. The proposal calls for nearly 11,000 square feet for the sheriff’s office.

The sheriff’s office moved into township hall in 1992 and it was supposed to be a temporary situation, said OCSO Lt. Dan Toth, commander of the Orion Township Substation.

At that time, the office had 18 deputies; now the office has 34 employees.

“We are grossly out of space,” Toth said. “We multitask every square inch we have because we’re so out of room.”

Deputies and detectives currently cannot use the interview room in the sheriff’s office because of water damage. A file storage room has black mold on the walls.

And the office’s three sergeants have been moved out of the office and into a trailer, Toth said.

Please see next week’s Lake Orion Review for additional information and updates to this developing story.