DPS rejects move to new city hall

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — Dearborn Public Schools are not interested in moving its administrative offices to the new Dearborn Administrative Center after the city moves there later this year.

DPS Board President Hussein Berry sent a letter to Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. and members of the City Council June 4 explaining the district’s decision and the reasons behind it.

“After much thought and deliberation, we decided long ago to not pursue this option,” Berry said. “We made a promise to the citizens of Dearborn to not use the ($76 million SMART) bond money to relocate our administrative offices.”

Berry said the board has discussed the possible move at meetings and the consensus was to stay where they are, though a merging of operations with Henry Ford College could happen in the future.

“This partnership not only makes financial sense but also logistical sense, because many of our services overlap,” Berry said.

The DPS administrative offices are at 18700 Audette and the same board of seven members governs DPS and HFC.

DPS was one candidate mentioned in previous meetings by O’Reilly as a possible tenant in the DAC, 16901 Michigan Ave., which would pay rent to the city for use of part of the center, which would increase the revenue brought in and increase the savings of the move.

The city bought the property in 2012 for $3.2 million and plans to move in by early September to allow Artspace, the Minneapolis-based nonprofit real estate developer who purchased the City Hall complex for $1.65 million last July, time to move into the city and begin renovating into 46 work and living spaces for artists as well as spaces for art studios, art organizations and creative businesses.

Councilman Thomas Tafelski, a vocal opponent of the City Hall sale throughout the process, said the news wasn’t good for the upcoming move.

“This was one of the issues that the mayor brought forth on why it was such a good idea to sell City Hall and move because we would combine with the schools and would receive rent,” Tafelski said. “Obviously based on this letter that is not going to happen and it’s just another broken promise to the public.”

He said he wondered how the decision would affect the savings of the city operations move, which has been estimated at $400,000 annually and as high as $560,000 if the additional space is rented out.

The City Council approved the establishment of a $5.5 million budget for renovation and relocation costs for city government in April but that budget did not include an access road that will connect the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center, 19th District Courthouse, Police Department and Henry Ford Centennial Library to the new City Hall or the addition of a roundabout in the parking lot so people can be dropped off close to the entrance doors.

“This is why I’ve continued to vote ‘no’ against this move because I would have much rather seen the money go toward manpower of police on the streets, fixing up our neighborhoods or other immediate needs, not building a legacy by moving City Hall,” Tafelski said.

Public Information Director Mary Laundroche said the city respects the DPS decision, and that sharing the space with them was never a requirement of the DAC’s success.

“The Dearborn Administrative Center stands on its own merits,” Laundroche said. “The mayor said all along that sharing the space with the schools was just an opportunity to be considered, not a requirement.”

(Bob Oliver can be reached at boliver@bewickpublications.com.)