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Senior center closer to reality

May 26, 2010 - When homework was done, costs were just about double the original estimates.

That was the word from Orion Township Supervisor Matthew Gibb as he presented revised plans for a proposed senior center complex behind K-mart at Clarkston Road and M-24.

The original proposal for the 27,000-square-foot building put costs at about $1.3 million, but Gibb told township trustees the numbers had climbed to about $2.693 million.

"You can say 'Yeah, the numbers have gone up,'" said Gibb. "But when we really looked and did our homework, this was the cost."

Funds for the project are expected to come from the Eagle Valley Host Fee fund, which has a projected year-end fund balance of about $2.7 million.

The water and sewer fund, with a projected year-end fund balance of nearly $55 million, will cover costs associated with extending the system, while site-development costs, Gibb said, would come via in-kind donations from the developers.

The building will also include about 4,400 square feet of space for Orion Neighborhood Television (ONTV). The organization has committed about $600,000 to funding for that space, which is not included in the township's costs.

While the public-private partnership concept for the new facility was brought to the board by builder Mike Church in December, Gibb at the May 19 board meeting alluded to the involvement of developer Larry Mullins.

"I'm still involved," said Church later, noting that, when all is said and done, he'll partake in the project's development, but Mullins will own the 12-acre parcel. "He has access to better financing."

The project's first phases, Church said, include the senior center, as well as ten over-55 individual rental apartments.

Later, development could include a dependent living facility, assisted living, or the addition of more individual apartments.

The proposed structure, a two story—not three, as originally planned—building, would serve as a community center-type building, replacing the township's current senior center housed in the Union Church in downtown Lake Orion.

In its current home, the senior center needs about $1 million in renovations and is limited to one room for arts, crafts and ceramics, one room that serves as an offshoot of the library, and a dining room.

But at the meeting in December, Gibb told the board it was likely the township would have to repay Community Development Block Grant Funds invested in the historic building.

"If we don't use it as a senior center it reverts to the village. If it reverts to the village, we have an issue of (repaying those funds)," he said. "We would never let that happen.

The older building, he said, could still be used as a senior-center annex, for example, for a for a Meals-on-Wheels program, or to be used as a larger space for the Orion Art Center.

By Monday, he'd apparently changed his mind, noting he'd been talking with Village Manager Paul Zelenak about returning the building to the Village of Lake Orion.

The village, he said, embraced the idea.

The township board voted unanimously to continue moving forward with the project.

"I'm not really for it and I'm not really against it," said Parker Johnson, a resident who lives near the site and noted at the May 19 meeting he was concerned about drainage and other issues related to the project. The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposal at 7 p.m., Wednesday, June 2.

Lake Orion Review Editor
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