By TEREASA NIMS
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK — City Council members voted 4-3 Tuesday to enter into a purchase agreement for a building at 4000 Allen Road, despite many residents saying the deal mimicked another Unity Studios.
“I can’t believe you guys just approved this after (Unity) Studios, and we’re doing this again,” former Councilwoman Marci DeGiulio said before the council.
Councilors Dennis Hayes, Tina Gaworecki and Angelo DeGiulio voted against the purchase while Bob Keenan, Harry Sisko, Larry Templin and Mayor William Matakas approved it.
If the city buys the 35,000-square-foot building — in which AT&T occupies the basement — it would serve as the new home for municipal offices and the Police Department.
They have 53 to 60 days to meet with contractors, do inspections, investigate that the building would serve the city’s needs and get approval from the state.
Matakas said if the inspections prove that the building isn’t sufficient for the city’s needs or something else arrises while the city preforms its due diligence, the city can opt out of the purchase.
If it goes forward with the purchase it can either buy it for $760,000 and allow AT&T to continue to rent the basement for a switch gear for $70,000 a year with the rent checks continuing to go to the current building owner. Or, the city can buy it outright for $2.1 million and receive AT&T’s rent check.
AT&T is leasing the property until Oct. 31, 2017, and has an option to renew for another 15 years after that.
The city would also have to invest approximately $2.1
million to renovate the building to accommodate the city offices.
Councilman DeGiulio said he was appalled by the suggested purchase agreement of buying a property while the seller continues to collect the rent checks.
“I just see us getting into another SLP or Jimmy Lifton again,” Councilman DeGiulio said of the Unity Studios president who, after one year here, moved his businesses to Detroit in 2010, abandoning the property for which the city purchased for $25 million.
Hayes also opposed considering the purchase.
“Let’s find out exactly what it is we need and take five to seven years and strategically plan instead of talking about low-hanging fruit and concerts in the park,” Hayes said.
Templin supported the purchase noting that buying the building is cheaper than building a new city hall.
While Matakas supported entering into a purchase agreement, he expressed concerns of the building’s gun range neighbor.
“I’m not very excited about having a city hall next to a gun range with people walking around,” he said.
Another concern was standing water.
One resident asked about the flooding on the first floor of the building and questioned whether this was a solid purchase.
“It doesn’t sound like a good property for us,” said resident Donna Davey.
Keenan said it wasn’t flooding per se, it was a lack of heat last winter and a pipe burst causing standing water. The issue, he said, was fixed.
“I do believe the Allen Road property is the way to go,” Keenan said.
In previous discussions about the building, Emergency Manager Joyce Parker said the space would provide room for expansion and adequate parking.
Weather the city purchases the building or goes another avenue, most residents and council members agreed city hall has to move from its current location.
Residents and some council members called the current location deplorable and overwhelmed with black mold.
“This building has to be vacated,” Matakas said, noting that the city moved into the current location in 1972 and only planned to stay for 15 years.
Matakas said he notices after a time in the building he coughs more and it affects his breathing.
“We can’t stay in that location,” Wilkewitz said. “So lets get something done.”
Sisko deemed the current location a “disaster.”
(Tereasa Nims can be reached at [email protected])