By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK – A proposed Department of Public Services facility at Baker College’s Buhl Field was the topic of a Dec. 17 City Council study session, with officials on hand to answer questions.
City Manager Mark Kibby said the site has 12 acres, two of which are in Melvindale.
“The property has to be accessed through Melvindale,” Kibby said. “We did spend last year at this time at Melvindale City Council meetings and Planning Commission meetings.”
Kibby said the city first looked at the property in August 2018, and closed on the property Jan. 26, for $500,000, and it was paid in cash.
Kibby said the challenge was determining the size of the DPS facility which would be needed. He said the previous city council had purchased two large pieces of equipment for $750,000, and both were stored outside, because they were too big to fit into any of the current DPS buildings.
Murray said one of the vehicles has been stored in the mechanics garage about a mile away, because in the winter, when the temperature drops below freezing, the pumps will freeze. He said the equipment has to be moved out every day so the mechanics can do their job.
He said the tree truck has a similar problem: It takes an hour in the winter to warm up the hydraulic system when it sits outside.
“A waste, obviously, of plenty of time and money when it sits outside,” Murray said. “That is just two of the vehicles I am talking about – not the rest. The two majors.”
Finance Director Bob Cady said Baker College bought the property in February 2013 for $672,680, and had it appraised at about $650,000 before Allen Park put an offer on it.
“When we made the offer on the property, we said, ‘We’ll give you $500,000 cash, and if we sell the front two acres – because we didn’t know if we wanted or not to own property in Melvindale – we’ll split whatever we get for that with the college,” Cady said. “Since that time, it was determined that we might need some of that acreage for parking, so we haven’t done anything. We still have the whole 12-acre site.”
Kibby said the previous mayor, William Matakas, didn’t want Allen Park to own land in Melvindale, but the previous city council felt the best option was to hold on to the land for a while to see if it were needed in the future.
“There have been a lot of requests for a dog park, and that is a possibility of it going in there,” Kibby said. “If you sell the property, you won’t have the opportunity.”
Cady said there is an acre and three-quarters in the middle that could be used as a dog park while still retaining access to Outer Drive.
“That is one of the things that we haven’t been able to address – a dog park,” Cady said.
Kibby reiterated that the dog park was a possibility down the road, and not anytime soon.
He said Allen Park officials encountered some initial resistance from the Melvindale DPW director and the city administrator, who wanted to relocate Melvindale’s DPW to the two acres within Melvindale.
“We just kept saying, ‘It’s not big enough for what you guys need,’” Kibby said. “It was not really what we were looking for in front of our location.”
Mayor Gail McLeod said she had no problem with Allen Park owning property in Melvindale, but if the section of land were to become a dog park at some point, access should be offered to residents of Melvindale.
Kibby said Allen Park Director of Parks and Recreation Pat Hawkins would be the person responsible for any future dog park project.
Kibby said the next step was to determine the layout of the facility on the 12-acre site, and with Souheil Sabak, an engineer with C.E. Raines, they have visited public works facilities in Farmington Hills, Novi and Livonia.
“What we found at those locations was some of them had facilities that we could replicate, they looked great, this is a great idea,” Kibby said. “There are others that we found where they basically said, ‘Listen, if you are going to do this, you want to change this.’ That is what we were looking for.”
Kibby said city officials are trying to determine how much space they really need in a DPS facility, and they are looking to do some space planning with an architect. He said Sabak already has supplied the cost of installing the utilities for the 2020 construction season, including concrete, water line and storm sewer prices.
He said the contractor that did the new Allen Park City Hall and police station has been able to provide them with an idea of pricing for the proposed DPS facility.
“The numbers are complete estimates, because we don’t know what size or anything until we get that portion taken care of, and before we go out for bid on anything,” Kibby said. “The problem that we keep running into, is pricing continues to go up.”
Cady confirmed the continued increase in construction price estimates.
“The perfect example of that is the water main project which you are going to be voting on Jan. 14,” he said. “When you look at those bids, you’ll be amazed at the price for year one, year two and year three. It will actually save us $100,000 to finance this project versus pay-as-you-go, because of the prices that they have given us for year two and year three. It is just incredible.”
Cady said the original estimates for the DPS project were $5.8 to $6.1 million, and now the estimate has increased as high as $7.8 million.
“That is where it is critical that we find somebody that can do this base planning we need so that we spend the right amount of money and get it done as quickly as possible,” Cady said. “We don’t want to build a Taj Mahal, but we don’t want to build something that in three years Tom (Murray, DPS director) is going to say, ‘I’ve got nowhere to put this thing.’”
Kibby said his and Cady’s plan on this project is to pay-as-you-go, and it is the approach with which they feel comfortable.
“Neither one of us cares to incur any debt, if at all possible,” Kibby said.
He said Cady and building official Dave Boomer went on a golf outing with officials from Comerica Bank. Boomer said they worked very diligently that afternoon to acquire a line of credit for up to $4 million from Comerica. He said the bank was willing to go higher, but it would be above Cady’s comfort zone.
Kibby said the previous city council did not want to make a commitment on behalf of the new city council.
“The only thing they did was to approve putting the notice in the paper and give the electorate 45 days to file any petition requesting a referendum,” Kibby said. “Those 45 days passed at the end of October, so the public has had an opportunity, if they wanted this to go to a vote, and that has passed. So, it now leaves it up to the council body to decide if we want to go with the $4 million loan or bond.”
“I would call it a 7-year capital loan, but our bond counsel calls it a bond,” Cady said. “But it is a 7-year, short-term loan.”