Board seeks bids on Sutton School renovation
Raisin Township Police Chief Scott Lambka asked township trustees to take steps at its Monday, Jan. 14 meeting to put plans back in motion on the renovation of the old Sutton School. The board then authorized the seeking of bids from architectural firms to determine the scope and cost of the project. The department intends to use the facility as new headquarters. The township entered into a ten-year lease for one dollar with the Lenawee Intermediate School District over a year ago.
Lambka issued a report summarizing facilities needs the department has had since its formation in 2001, starting with shared space with the fire department, then moving into a former portable classroom that was placed next to the township office. That move was meant to be temporary, Lambka said, following a 2006 committee study that included looking at building a new facility. The group also looked at renovating the Raisin Community Center, but nixed the idea due to being unable to relocate voter precincts. There was also approval to purchase the former Sunsations building next door, but the deal fell through when structural deficiencies were discovered.
“We simply do not have any room,” Lambka told the board and his report detailed how records have to be stored in different locations, interview space is inadequate and how staff are cramped together. He also explained how a private business owner had pledged to help complete the remodeling at the time the lease was signed, but he had to withdraw for health reasons, and other commitments had also dried up due to the economy. While Lambka had originally thought some of the work could be done in-house, discussions with building department head Harry Hutchison revealed that it should be done professionally, and proposed that bids be sought in order to determine proposed costs to renovate the building and get things moving again.
“I think we need a commitment with the board to explore funding and to get professional opinions on what we’re facing,” Lambka said.
Two architects have taken a look and made “ballpark” projections that range from $150,000 to $400,000 to do the work. The board discussed the fact that it could utilize some of the Public Safety tax monies.
“I agree with the fact that we should spend some of that money and seek bids and pick a firm for the design just like we did when we bid out the renovation for the fire station,” said Trustee Larry Crittenden. “It’s going to cost money but I think in the long run it will be dollars well spent. They have outgrown where they are now.”
Plans to reuse the building that sits on the Milton C. Porter Center campus came about long before the Sandy Hook tragedy, but Lambka said he believed having law enforcement so near to the school would be positively received in light of discussions taking place across the country to secure school buildings. He said that the campus actually includes three schools, including Sutton Elementary and the Haviland program, which educates students with behavioral challenges.
Lambka also pointed out that there might be future federal incentives through grants that would dovetail with a project such as theirs following the Sandy Hook incident, and it would be beneficial to have costs determined before that takes place. The board voted unanimously to move ahead with seeking the bids.
In other business, the board of trustees:
• Set tentative dates of January 29 at 1 p.m. and an alternate date of January 28 at 1 p.m. for the board to meet with the Lenawee County Road Commission to discuss road projects during the coming construction year. The meeting is open to the public.
• Passed a resolution regarding delegation of authority for fireworks inspections by the Raisin Township Fire Department.
• Approved hiring Brett Coker as an officer for the Raisin Township Police Department.
• Approved continuing an additional staff person for seven to eight weeks for physical tasks while Fire Chief Rick Renard remains on administrative duty only with doctor’s orders for no strenuous activity following knee surgery.
• Approved the creation of a position for a back-up building inspector to assist with the growing workload in the Building Department.
• Discussed the status of G&S Materials’ request for a conditional use permit for a reclamation operation on Ives Road. Formerly Stansley Materials, the company is progressing through the process with the township’s planning commission.
• Discussed the future loss of revenues due to new laws regarding elimination of personal property tax and what that might mean to the township. Township Supervisor Jay Cavanaugh is still working out the dollar figure loss for the township and assessing future operations needs. “This creates an uncertain future for how we operate and our funding may be reduced over the next 10 years and we don’t want to be ill prepared,” Cavanaugh said. He proposed setting some special meetings and regular ongoing discussions and brainstorming regarding ways to cut costs. “We’re going to keep our eye on it and figure this out,” he said. “We have a very capable board, and very capable staff, and I’m confident we’ll come up with a solution.”