By Jim Newell
The Orion Township Board of Trustees approved $60,000 for Auger Klein Aller Architects Inc. to develop a schematic design study for a new township hall.
The 6-0 approval came during the board’s meeting on Monday. Trustee Mike Flood was absent from the meeting.
“We have been moving in this direction for more than a year,” township Supervisor Chris Barnett said. “And every study that has been completed has said that we need (more) room here. So, I don’t think anyone disagrees with that.”
AKA Architects had already been contracted to update the township’s facilities plan, and the board has had several workshops to discuss its options, said Barnett, and now needs to make a decision to proceed.
“Tonight we will be considering a recommendation to move forward with the planning of a new township hall and some additions and renovations to some other facilities in the township to accommodate our growing needs,” Barnett said. “This building that we’re in is 40 years old, or so.”
The township hired AKA Architects last summer “to do a report as to what the conditions of the facilities were in the township and then the projected growth that we’re experiencing in the township and compare that to what normal standards are in other communities,” said Steve Auger, owner and partner of AKA Architects.
The original township hall was built in 1974 with an addition in 1996, and has a current 20,000 square foot footprint, Auger said. The township also commissioned a building study in 2002 that recommended a 12,000 sf sheriff’s station, 15,000 sf central fire (office) and “about $6 million in improvements for this building, as it stood at that time. Which in today’s dollars is about $8.5 million.”
A 2008 study recommended the same square footage for the sheriff’s station, 18,000 sf for the fire station and 17,000 sf for the DPW, totaling $12 million, about $14 million today, Auger said.
Current upgrades required in township hall are $65,000 “needed right today”; about $250,000 needed in the HVAC and mechanical within the next five years; and within another 10 years another $200,000, Auger informed the board.
Based on how much each township department is “projected to grow and/or needs currently, there’s not enough space currently for staff,” Auger said, adding that the study showed the township needs about 40,000 sf, double what it has right now, and the sheriff’s departments needs about 11,000 sf but is currently at 4,000 sf.
A new township hall is projected to cost $12-$14 million, Barnett said.
That total also includes a 2,000 square foot expansion at Fire Station #3 on Gregory Road at a projected cost of $967,440. The fire department’s office, which are currently in township hall, would move to that proposed expanded facility.
The study also looked at the DPW building on Joslyn Road, estimating $2.64 million for an expansion to that facility, included in the total cost.
The board discussed finance options for the proposed development, which Barnett anticipates would be in the form of a bond.
“If we did a 20-year bond, we’re looking at about $500,000 to $600,000 in annual debt service,” he said.
Barnett proposed that one of the options to pay for a bond is to use the township’s host fee fund from revenue it receives from the landfill, “which is just north of $500,000 per year.”
“In order for me to feel comfortable proceeding, I want to make sure that we have the revenue streams available and identified so that we can do this project without increasing taxes on our residents,” Barnett said.
If the board proceeds with the plan, one option the township would look at to build a new hall is on the 76 acres of land it owns just north of Greenshield Road and the current township hall location.
“We are taking this very seriously. We understand the size and scope of the project – $12 to $14 million, probably. And so, we appreciate the magnitude and importance of what we’re talking about here, but we don’t make this decision lightly,” Barnett said.