By SUE SUCHYTA
Sun Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK – City officials, architects and residents packed a second story city hall conference room for a study session Aug. 16 to hear proposals for future city hall and Police Department sites.
Three firms, representing engineering, architectural and real estate specialists, presented preliminary plans to utilize alternative real estate and building combinations within the city to accommodate a city hall and Police Department on both shared and separate sites.
Because the city’s current city hall and police department lease at 16630 Southfield Road expires in April 2018, at which times leasing fees are anticipated to increase significantly, by then the city hopes to be in, or transitioning into, new facilities that better serve city hall and Police Department needs.
Residents have expressed concern with the difficulty of crossing the heavily traveled and fast moving traffic lanes of Southfield Road to get to the current city complex.
The benefits of locating a city hall in a downtown location were also weighed.
The Police Department’s lack of a jail currently necessitates reliance on Dearborn Police Department facilities. Allen Park’s police department also lacks secure parking for its vehicles, and a gun range for ongoing officer training.
Officers said the present layout of the Police Department has caused them to lose desirable officer recruits to cities with better facilities.
Police officials also want room to accommodate an increase in department personnel over the next two to three decades.
Sgt. Wayne Albright, a 22-year veteran of the department, said he is not a finance specialist, but is very passionate about the needs of the department.
“Does anybody know what is going to happen in 10 or 20 years in this country with crime rates with our police department?” Albright asked. “Are we going to need 10, 20 more cops? We don’t know.”
Albright, as range officer, emphasized the importance of a gun range to a police department.
“I implore all of you who are in this decision to try and keep that in the forefront,” Albright said. “A range is extremely important, especially if you look at what is going on in society today.”
Albright reiterated the importance of being aware of the priorities of residents.
“They support proactive policing,” he said “They want an exceptional police department. They don’t want mediocre. Allen Park deserves the best.”
Albright said there is a reason all five police departments surrounding Allen Park have gun ranges. He said the state is mandating more training.
“There are so many things going on nowadays,” he said. “Everything’s on videotape. Every time there is a shooting, it is scrutinized to the nth degree.
“The officers deserve the very best, to be trained so that they can best keep everyone safe in Allen Park, but also so that they can go home to their families at night.”
Albright urged decision makers to get a “real” police department, not a retrofitted building like the department has had in the past.
Najim Saymuah, vice president of CDPA Architects of Wixom, a full service architectural and engineering firm, and who has extensive experience designing police departments, said a six-lane gun practice range would cost about $600,000. He said a gun range could be retrofitted into a building in the future.
Councilman Kevin Rourke said he has regretted decisions made in the past that were based on future options that became unfeasible for various reasons, and would rather get priority needs for the Police Department locked into the current plan.
“I have been through this scenario before and been burnt badly by it,” Rourke said. “The future is now, answers now, not additions later on.”
If the city bought a parcel of land, then sold part of it to finance new city hall and Police Department construction, Rourke said he wanted to know how certain the consultants and subject matter experts were of their real estate assumptions, and on what experience those predictions were based.
City Administrator Mark Kibby said the acreage on the former city hall and police department site didn’t have enough room to allow a partial profit-making sale and still have enough land to fulfill the Police Department’s wish list.
Kibby also said the Receivership Transition Advisory Board would likely weigh in on any future city hall and Police Department decision because of the cost involved. He said RTAB is aware of the city’s impetus to leave its current leased facility.
Finance Director Robert Cady said the RTAB wants the city to address the municipal complex issue.
“I think part of the process to get fully released by the state is for us to deal with this issue, whether it is an extended lease here or we build somewhere,” Cady said. “They want to see us do something.”
Other city hall personnel cited the difficulty residents, especially seniors, have traversing the parking lot and the stairs to get to different city departments at the present location.
Kristie King and Bob Mihelich of CBRE, a worldwide full service real estate services company, with local offices in Southfield, explained how property acquisition could incorporate the purchase of a site and include leasing parts to other entities, like retail, commercial or hotel properties, while retaining the portion of the site needed to comfortably accommodate the footprint needed by city hall and the police department.
Discussion weighed the pros and cons of a high visibility, identifiable municipal complex for the city versus using a lower visibility profile site for city needs, then using the more visible and desirable portion of a given property as a revenue source.
Of five distinct proposals discussed at the Aug. 16 study session, the first one proposed demolishing the old city hall and police department and building a new shared facility at the location.
A second proposal would use the existing Aco Hardware building at 15819 Southfield Road, near Roosevelt and Allen, with a new addition built between the existing courthouse and the Aco building for the Police Department.
A third proposal would expand the Aco building toward Southfield Road, and use the area between the existing courthouse and the Aco building for secure police parking.
A fourth proposal would demolish the Red Fawn Catering Building, at 6588 Allen Road, between Philomene and Southfield, and build a new stand-alone city hall. It was noted that parking is limited at that location.
A fifth proposal would utilize the Aco building for a stand-alone police department, with secure police parking between the Aco building and the existing courthouse.
Souheil Sabak and Bruce Hammonds of Charles E. Raines Co., Civil Engineers and Surveyors, of Riverview, present during the study session, will oversee engineering aspects of the project.
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected].)