Schools’ move to City Hall put on hold

By SHERRI KOLADE
Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — Dearborn Public Schools delayed plans to move into the future City Hall site — the former ADP building, 16901 Michigan Ave. — with the city, after a meeting Nov. 27.

DPS Supt. Brian Whiston said the school board did not support going forward with moving the district’s administration service center and Louis W. Howe School into the new City Hall, until having a cost analysis plan.

Whiston said he became involved when the school board directed him to find a cost analysis.

The board also voted down applying for a Competitive Grant Assistance, a dual in-state grant, with the city for up to $800,000, which would have covered some moving expenses. The last day to apply for the in-state grant was Dec. 3.

During a special meeting in May, the City Council approved the purchase of the former ADP building as the new City Hall location.

Artspace, a Minneapolis-based non-profit organization created to help artists find affordable locations to live and work, plans to move into City Hall. The organization has established artist communities in more than 30 areas including Chicago, Seattle, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.

Whiston said getting moving and related costs will help the district decide what the best option for the move is. Whiston plans to present his cost analysis information to the board by the end of January or the beginning of February.

“The board felt like they didn’t have enough information to commit to a grant with the city and schools,” Whiston said.

During a special City Council meeting in May, councilors voted 5-2 for the move into the new City Hall location. Councilors Mark Shooshanian, Nancy Hubbard, David Bazzy, Robert Abraham and Suzanne Sareini voted for the move into the $3.2 million building, along with the nearly $600,000 in closing and holding costs, prorated property tax, hearing cost and maintenance. Council President Thomas Tafelski and Councilman Brian O’Donnell voted against the purchase.

Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. said in April the decision to move City Hall will better the city.

About $5.7 million is needed to repair City Hall’s parking structure, which is dangerous to drive and park in, O’Reilly said at previous council meetings.

According to the city of Dearborn website, the city will complete the move to the new City Hall by early 2014. The city is negotiating with Artspace about the purchase of the current City Hall building, at Michigan Avenue and Schaefer Road.

Whiston said the school district is still looking at the possibility of a joint project but the district does not have a definite answer.

O’Reilly said the school district’s decision will not impact the city in its plans to move.

“I don’t feel that it is a setback,” O’Reilly said. “There are some funding issues on their plate that the city doesn’t have at this time. I understand that even when you want to implement change you have to help people understand why you are doing it and the value over time.”

O’Reilly said the city is taking the move “one step at a time” and the city is working with DPS administrators to see how much space the district might need if they move into the new City Hall. Based on the district’s needs the city will determine the cost.

“We don’t have the full costs of what it would cost to occupy the building,” O’Reilly said. “All those things are important for the final decision making. Costs and savings, those are thing we have to work on.”

O’Reilly said that in the future the city plans to apply for any applicable grants. The in-state grant between the city and the school district is based on Michigan Shared Services, which encourages sharing services between municipalities and neighboring cities to reduce overhead costs.

DPS Communications Coordinator David Mustonen said “down the road” the school district will look to see if other grant options are available.

“If there were grants we would apply for them,” Mustonen said. “At this point we are not aware.”

Currently, the city hired contractors from Neumann/Smith Architecture, headquartered in Southfield, to create two preliminary design layouts for the former ADP building. One design layout is for the city and the second design layout is for the city and schools to find out the costs of occupancy, O’Reilly said.

“We want to get to a point where we know what the space use would be, the cost of renovation and the ongoing operating costs so we have a good comparable design,” O’Reilly said. “We can generate real data on how much costs will be.”

After finding out renovation costs, the city plans to decide its next step with the new City Hall building, O’Reilly said.

(Sherri Kolade can be reached at skolade@bewickpublications.com.)

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