By Graham Sturgeon, staff writer
The Shiawassee Township Board convened for a special meeting on Thursday, July 30, with the goal of hearing the public’s input before proceeding with the final design of the township’s new township hall/fire department/community center/library building. The public did not pack the township meeting room as it did when the board initially approved the plan on Feb. 5, but the evening provided some good discussion nonetheless.
The board voted 3-2 to move the project along with the original design that was approved in February, despite some concerns on behalf of Township Treasurer Warren Gutting and Trustee Richard Godfrey. Both expressed their concerns with the current layout, with Gutting opining that the Community District Library collects enough taxes every year to finance their own building and Godfrey advocating to defer the construction of the fire department.
“Why don’t we just go with the hall and do the fire department later?” Godfrey suggested. “The fire department does a good job, but down the road they will need new equipment. What would they rather have, better equipment or a new building? Because we can’t buy both.”
The board’s plan, as of Feb. 5, was to include the 775-square-foot library and the 4,417-square-foot fire hall in the new 10,405-square-foot complex, but the board did previously discuss options that involved keeping either the library or the fire department in the current building. Those options were nixed after Lisa Demankowski and NJB Architects deemed the building “inadequate for all functions” in their 2007 building evaluation. During the Feb. 5 meeting, the board voted unanimously to apply for the Rural Development loan. Gutting even made the motion that night to approve the current building design after the many residents in attendance had soundly supported the design that included the fire department and library.
The $1.8 million project will require an initial $502,600 contribution from the township, with annual payments of $72,600 on the 40-year, $1.3 million USDA Rural Development loan. The township reported a General Fund balance of over $1.5 million in February, and they expect to net approximately $160,000 per year for the foreseeable future. Because of the township’s past fiscal responsibility and current healthy financial standing, the board will not need additional tax support to fund the project.
The affirmative vote called for the development of the final prints for the building layout, followed by the solicitation of contracting bids. Though the board voted to approve the final design for the project, Township Supervisor Anthony Karhoff assured the less-enthusiastic members of his board that they could still decline to accept bids later in the process.
Former Shiawassee County Commissioner and community activist/politician Bob McLaren supported the board’s decision to build the hall as initially proposed. “This building would better serve the citizens of this township, and it doesn’t cost them anything on their taxes,” McLaren said. “Why not improve the township?”