By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
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ALLEN PARK – The City Council voted 5-2 March 28 to purchase the former Oakwood property at 15801 Southfield Road for $1.6 million for a new city hall and police department.
Mayor William Matakas and Council Members Angelo DeGiulio, Tina Gaworecki, Gail McLeod and Larry Templin voted in favor of the purchase, with Councilmen Kevin Rourke and Harry Sisko opposed.
After rejecting a $1.75 million purchase price at the March 14 council meeting, the sellers agreed to a $150,000 price reduction, with the request that the city acknowledge that they have completed its physical “due diligence” on the property and close the sale in April.
The council also authorized architect Najim Saymuah of CDPA Architects and Planners to begin the architectural drawings for the interior and exterior changes to the building.
If a design is approved by the end of May, and a contract awarded in early August, construction could begin in September, with a tentative July 2018 completion date.
Templin said previous concerns about the purchase had been addressed, and the police department has room for jail cells, so suspects no longer need to be held at the Dearborn Police Department.
“It looks like a good fit,” Templin said. “It puts us right in the middle of town, with the court system, and plans are to close off Philomene, so security issues are addressed for the police department and employees.”
Templin said the storm sewer that drains water out of the parking lot will have concrete debris removed, to prevent water from backing up into the parking lot.
Templin said replacement of the climate control system did not bother him, since it was 20 years old, and the roof will be new because of the extensive building remodeling.
Rourke said city officials do not do enough long range planning, and there may be other options available.
“It is a difficult decision, and I have been through it before,” Rourke said. “We need to do something, but if this is where we go, we need to start planning for the future, for those grand-kids down the road.”
Sisko agreed that the council has reacted to the time constraint, since the lease on the current building will soon expire, and the city doesn’t want to to be locked into an extended lease.
He said the $1.6 million asking price matches the sellers’ inheritance tax of $1.4 million plus the real estate commission.
“In talking to different people, I believe it’s still overpriced,” Sisko said. “Are we making the best decision possible? If there wasn’t a lien on this property, would it still be for sale?
“This hasn’t been right from the beginning. I don’t understand how we get in these situations, which is why the city of Allen Park should almost never buy any property.”
Sisko said before he was on the council, he objected strenuously about the studio property purchase, and while he can’t undo that decision, he feels that, once again, outside forces are telling city officials what Allen Park should do.
McLeod said while she has had many thoughts about the purchase, she feels it has been well-vetted, is close to downtown, and the location is more accessible than the current city hall.
“The bottom line is, I think this council wants to do what’s best for the city, with the least amount of negative economic impact,” McLeod said.
Gaworecki said the council has tried to do this without asking the residents for any additional money, and building a new city hall and police department was cost-prohibitive.
“Yes, there are other places we probably could have went,” Gaworecki said. “Next door was one of them – we did own it. The infrastructure was going to cost us too much.
“I think everybody up at this table cares. This is different than the last situation. I think we have involved the residents more. You may not have gotten all your answers, but I think we have done our due diligence.”
Matakas said he thinks the Oakwood property is the best option.
“I think if we do the facade right, we will have something that makes us look like a city hall, and not an additional part of the shopping center,” Matakas said. “We’ve looked at six to eight parcels in the city, and for one reason or another could not make them work for the city. Time is running, and time is money, given what we pay here for rent and common area maintenance charges. I think all in all, (Oakwood) is the best place.”
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected])