Township Campus Renovations
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Contact: Theresa Katalinas
Plymouth Twp Grapples with Fiscally Responsible Fix to Municipal Campus
A pair of leaking roofs. A 50-year-old boiler. An electrical system so outdated that parts must be rebuilt. Closets converted to cramped workspaces. Asbestos in portions of the building.
These are just some of the issues plaguing the nearly 50-year-old Plymouth Township municipal building. For more than five years, Plymouth Township officials have wrestled with finding the most cost-effective means of repairing the building and creating additional much-needed space.
“Obviously, we want to do what is most logical,” Council Chairman Christopher Manero said. “The building is in need of some major immediate attention related to things like the HVAC system, the boiler, the roof, areas of walls that are leaking, and a general lack of adequate space on both the police side of the building and the administration side. With those needs of course come significant costs.”
The Council has been working with its professionals to determine the best approach to moving forward. At present, four options are under consideration: Option One is to undertake the required renovations; Option Two is to renovate the building with minimal additions; Option Three is a full renovation with recommended additions; and Option Four is a brand-new building.
“We need to decide whether we take a long-term approach here and implement renovations that will last us the next 30 or 40 years at a more fixed cost, or whether we take short-term approaches and just try to keep up with ongoing needs as they arise, and risk potentially spending more money in the long run,” Manero said.
Manero said the Council intends to decide within the next month or two whether it will renovate its municipal building. Discussions, as well as a decision, would happen during a public meeting and community members could ask questions or share feedback prior to a vote.
The Council began discussing improvements for the municipal building in July 2015. By October 2016, the Council chose KCBA as its architect for the renovation project. Plymouth’s master plan was completed in April 2018 and was presented to the public during a Council meeting. In January 2018, Council began exploring the possibility of selling its sanitary sewer system to pay for needed municipal building renovations and to restore capital funds.
The township sent postcards to every Plymouth Township resident in spring 2018 and invited them to attend one of four town hall meetings in May 2018. In addition, the township included a presentation, “Reaching Out Planning Ahead” on its Website, detailing the various issues with the 50-year-old building.
By September 2019, the Council opted to not sell its sanitary sewer system – a decision overwhelmingly supported by residents.
In January, the architect began detailed architectural plans and a project manager was brought onboard. During the September Council workshop meeting, KCBA shared a presentation with Council regarding the building project.
The Plymouth Township municipal building was constructed in 1971. The 41,858-square-foot building (including a 15,500-square-foot basement) houses township administration, police, codes/zoning and public works. When it was built 60 people worked in the building, as compared to about 100 employees today.
Police Chief John Myrsiades cited better security measures, including a gated lot for personal vehicles, as a priority for municipal building upgrades.
“I want the officers to feel safe coming into work,” he said, noting that police begin and end shifts at night or during overnight hours, as well as weekends and holidays. “It’d be nice to know that you’re in a secure area when you’re coming in.”
Plymouth Township police process approximately 1,000 people per year. There have been instances in the past where police officers have had their personal vehicles damaged, he said.
“Simple things” like an overhang to shield police vehicles during snowstorms would mean police spend less time shoveling snow and more time responding to calls, he said.
In terms of space, the department’s lone training facility doubles as a roll call room, kitchenette, and a place to hold meetings. Police lockers are similar in size to what high school students use – except police must fit vests, weapons, radios, and boots inside.
Rick Carbo has seen space in the building seemingly disappear since he began overseeing maintenance, custodial and capital projects in 1998 as Plymouth Township’s director of Buildings and Grounds.
“We’ve cannibalized the building,” Carbo said. “We’ve taken many storage spaces and made them IT suites, or they have become offices. We have one large storage closet that now has four cubbies in it that houses some of the code enforcement employees.”
In addition to the building’s original boiler, the plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems are all well beyond their life expectancies.
“Many of our systems are starting to fail,” Carbo said. “There’s always something that we’re trying to put a Band-aid on.”
To address cramped quarters, the architect proposed an addition, which would increase municipal building space to 54,130 square feet and would offer additional dedicated space to departments, including 2,100 square feet for public works, a 4,000-square-foot vehicle garage, a 550-square-foot kennel, and a 1,505-square-foot sally port for police transport of prisoners.
Project Manager Stacy Thomas shared with Council ideas for reconfiguring the existing campus with township administration and code enforcement in the north side of the building, police in the south side and a main clear point of entry from public parking from the front of the building facing Belvoir Road.
“We are really looking to simplify organization of the building,” she said. “Create enough space, identify a new main entrance that’s directly accessible from parking.”