Allen Park holds first council meeting in new city hall

Photo by Sue Suchyta During the first meeting in the new Allen Park City Hall June 12, Mayor William Matakas (second from left) said that years ago, when Allen Park didn't have a large meeting space, the police would shut down part of Allen Road for a city meeting, officials would speak using a bullhorn and people wouldn't come out unless the weather was nice, as City Attorney Joseph Couvreur (left), City Administrator Mark Kibby (third from left) and City Councilwoman Gail McLeod react with amusement.

Photo by Sue Suchyta
During the first meeting in the new Allen Park City Hall June 12, Mayor William Matakas (second from left) said that years ago, when Allen Park didn’t have a large meeting space, the police would shut down part of Allen Road for a city meeting, officials would speak using a bullhorn and people wouldn’t come out unless the weather was nice, as City Attorney Joseph Couvreur (left), City Administrator Mark Kibby (third from left) and City Councilwoman Gail McLeod react with amusement.

By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK – A Scout color guard carried flags into the new City Hall chamber June 12, as local clergy blessed the gathering and residents filled the room to see the city’s future.

Boy Scout Troop 1061 carried the first United States, Michigan and Allen Park flags into the chamber, followed by an invocation by the Rev. Patrick Bossio Jr. of CHRISTfamily Church of Brownstown Township.

Bossio was then joined by Police Chief James Wilkewitz and the Revs. Frank Varga of the Hungarian Reformed Church of Allen Park, Fred Harshbarger of Heart to Heart Ministries of Melvindale, Tim Jones of The Road Baptist Church of Allen Park and Bill Cruthers, retired, of Southfield Road Baptist Church of Allen Park for a blessing of the Police Department’s newly designed badges.

Wilkewitz said in conjunction with the police department’s move to its new home, he and his officers were issued new badges, which they helped design.

“They look very similar to our existing badges, with some changes,” Wilkewitz said. “It has the city seal in the middle instead of the state seal and some different coloration and a brighter finish.”

Wilkewitz said he reached out to the chaplain corps before issuing the badges to the officers to place over their chests as a symbolic shield before they go out into the community to serve.

Bossio said the chaplain corps created a blessing proclamation, which Cruthers read, while the chaplains placed their hands on the badges for a blessing and protection of the police officers.

The proclamation stated that the shield reminds one to honor the courage of those who are called to serve, protect and save others.

“We recognize these true words that declare, ‘Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends,’” Cruthers read. “We declare protection and safety over all who wear this badge and we stand in support of them.

“May this shield represent a divine shield of favor over all who wear it. Your shield when worn on your clothing is an emblem of the honor of your sworn duty.”

He further read aloud that the community is protected by the badge, which represents officers’ dedication and service, and called for divine blessing and protection for those who serve.

Jones asked for the badge wearers to demonstrate the integrity of their office shown through their actions as they serve.

As Bossio presented the proclamation to Wilkewitz, he lightened the tone of the gathering.

“I’m giving his badge back, because he was watching it carefully,” he said, amid laughter.

In another first, City Administrator Mark Kibby provided his first city hall progress report from the building.
Kibby said the skylights have been a “wonderful” addition, creating a light and airy environment in the city hall office space.

He said on the Police Department side of the building, the jail cells are still being worked on, and may be completed by mid-July. He said the security lot entrance and exit gates need some adjustment to ensure that they close properly.

“A minor detail that the safety gates have to close all the way,” Kibby said, tongue firmly in cheek. “We’ll get there.”
Kibby said new work stations for the detective bureau were installed on June 11.

He said city officials have met with landscapers to hear proposals for the front of City Hall, and to make selections for the parking islands.

Kibby said a preliminary punch list for the project completion has been discussed with the construction contractors, and a formal walk-through has been scheduled. He said last week the project superintendent was not on site, which Kibby said slowed progress of the building’s completion, adding that the superintendent was now back on site.

Kibby said the payment drop box from the former city hall has been relocated to the parking lot island, and will be more readily accessible once the parking lot’s lane markers have been painted, and a drive through spot for the drop box is indicated.

The old city hall furniture will be sold at the Historical Commission garage sale on June 23 at the recreation center, Kibby said.

“There were quite a few old filing cabinets, some old furniture and desks,” he said. “They are not in the best of shape. They have been beaten by us over the course of 40 years.”

Kibby said he hopes to have the microphones and cameras working in the meeting room before the next city council meeting.

At the end of the meeting, Councilman Kevin Rourke said he remembered when the new city hall facility was the site of the Sveden House buffet restaurant, and said now it looks a lot better.

Councilwoman Tina Gaworecki said she is glad the council chose this location from the choices put before them.
Councilwoman Gail McLeod said as time goes by, people will appreciate the new facility even more, and she hopes the city continues to move forward.

City Clerk Michael Mizzi recalled the city hall where he first reported to work in December 1995.

“Someone that day made a comment: ‘Don’t get used to this – we are going to be moving,’” Mizzi said. “This is monumental. It is finally good that we have our own home.

“It is something the citizens can be proud of, we’re not renting somewhere, we are not in a building that leaks, where the carpet looks disgusting and you can’t use rooms because the roof caved in.”

Mizzi said he heard promises of a new city hall from five or six mayors, and it has finally happened 23 years later.
“This is a huge day for all of us as Allen Parkers,” Mizzi said.

Mayor William Matakas’ voice was filled with emotion when he said he also found it amazing to be in a new city hall.

“I have been coming to city hall since 1956,” Matakas said.

He said one city hall, which also housed the police station and Water Department, was about the size of the current meeting room.

Matakas said the police station kept that building, and the city hall moved into a former hardware store.

“I can remember when we would have a meeting of this size at that building, we would have to have the police shut off Allen Road, and the mayor would have to come out with a bull horn, and the meeting would take place in the middle of Allen Road,” Matakas said. “So most of the time people didn’t show up unless the weather was really good.”

Matakas said in 1972 the city acquired the church on Southfield Road, south of I-94, but the city never had funds to rehabilitate the building.

“As a result, the building never really got put in shape,” he said. “It had a tremendous amount of mold and leaks. In the men’s room one day, part of the roof fell on me, and I said, ‘This is it.’ When you can’t go to the bathroom, you have got to get a new place. So this is a great day.”

(Sue Suchyta can be reached at sue.suchyta@yahoo.com.)