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Supervisor says twp. hall 'falling apart'

Addison Township Supervisor Bruce Pearson gazes into the hole in his office ceiling created by rain water that came gushing in last week. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
July 14, 2010 - A visible and wet reminder that the aging Addison Township Hall needs to be either repaired or torn down and replaced came cascading into the supervisor's office and the Oakland County Sheriff's substation July 8.

"The whole building is falling apart," said township Supervisor Bruce Pearson, who's raised the issue in his monthly report at the last two board meetings. "What I've been saying all along would happen, happened." The flood

Rain water poured through the roof and into the interior of the east side of the 1440 Lakeville Road building.

"The sergeant's office was soaked," Pearson said. "It had half-an-inch of water throughout the office. All his files – cases he was working on – are soaked."

Last week's heat wave, during which temperatures hovered in the 90s, caused the township hall's flat roof to raise up. As a result, nails poked through the rubber membrane, the seams of which also split.

"The (rain) water just came crashing through into the sheriff's substation and my office," Pearson said.

Of course, it doesn't help that the roof contains "low spots" in which water collects instead of draining properly.

"I was here until almost 11 o'clock last night with brooms, up on the roof, trying to push the water over to the drains that don't work right," said Pearson, noting he was joined by the fire chief and two sheriff's deputies.

Pearson spent $2,800 for an emergency roof repair over the weekend. This wasn't a cost covered by the township's insurance.

"It's nothing we can claim as an act of God, it was just poor maintenance," the supervisor said. "It's not like a tree fell on it, it's just bad maintenance."

The existing roof was installed in 1998, however, according to Pearson, it was never maintained, meaning the rubber membrane wasn't sealed every two years as it's supposed to be. "That would have saved the membrane," he said.

As a result of this neglect, the membrane is "cracked" and "rotted," and cannot be saved. "The roof is ruined," Pearson said. "The whole roof's membrane is shot."

Installing a new roof would cost the township more than $100,000.

But Pearson isn't sure it's wise to invest a sizeable amount of taxpayer money in a building that's marked by deterioration and inefficiency due to age and lack of maintenance.

"I've been mentioning at the township meetings that our building is falling apart," he said. "If you fix this place, are you doing the township justice? If you put a ton of money in here and then five years later, come back and say the building's got to go, then you wasted all that money."

Other problems

Before the township purchased it in 1983, the building was a public school, built in 1951 and added on to in 1957.

Besides the roof, the hall has a myriad of other problems.

Due to erosion, the footings on the building's east side are sinking.

"That's why we're getting these big gaps in the floor," Pearson said. "The building is slowly spreading apart, it's spreading out."

The building's heating and cooling system is also outdated and inefficient.

"Those 1970s heating and cooling units on the roof are pretty much shot," said Pearson, who noted the system went out last week and the township was without air conditioning for three days.

The first repairman said he couldn't fix it and gave up. The second repairman spent two days on it, which cost the township $500, a price Pearson described as generous.

But even if the entire system was updated, the township would still be wasting money on its utility bills because of how inefficient the building is when it comes to heating and cooling it.

The building itself is constructed of cinder block, which was covered with a fake brick facade and no insulation whatsoever.

Single-pane aluminum windows from the 1950s allow the wind to "blow right through."

"When they built school houses back in the 1950s, they certainly weren't energy conscious," Pearson said. "We're just throwing gas and electricity out the window."

He noted that every township employee, including himself, who has an office with an outside wall uses an electric heater in the winter to keep warm.

On top of the energy inefficiencies, the township hall also suffers from rotting fascia, a chimney that's falling apart, sidewalks that are eroding and sinking, and a number of other problems.

"The gas lines are all rusted," Pearson noted. "The electrical is not up to code. There's exposed wires."

Fix or build?

Pearson is currently conducting a feasibility study to see which is the better option – spend money to repair the existing building or demolish it and construct a new township hall. He hopes to have it completed by October and ready to present to the township board for a decision.

"My dilemma is do I spend a couple hundred thousand dollars on (repairing) an old building or do I say cut your losses," he said. "Do we want to put money into this building? Is it worth fixing?"

Even if the roof and windows were replaced, Pearson said, "We still have an old building that has no insulation."

Based on his preliminary findings, Pearson indicated it's probably a wiser investment to construct a new township hall that's smaller and more energy efficient.

"We have a lot of wasted space in here," he said, noting the existing hall is approximately 14,000 square feet. "We've got these great big hallways. One quarter of it's wasted.

"We don't need this kind of space. If we had an efficient building, I think we could probably get by with 7,000 or 8,000 square feet."

How much would a new township hall cost? "I suspect we're looking at $1 million for a building," said Pearson, noting the construction cost would run about $200 per square foot.

If the township were to go that route, rather than paying for the project with a millage increase, Pearson indicated the municipality could possibly use $300,000 from its fund balance and finance the rest of the project with a bank loan lasting up to 10 years.

The township could get a type of loan called an "installment purchase." Because the bank is loaning money to a municipality, the income generated by it is tax-free for the financial institution. This enables the bank to pass on the savings in the form of lower interest rates for the municipality.

That's the way Addison financed construction of its new main fire station in Leonard. It took out a 10-year loan.

The other option would be to issue municipal bonds for the project.

Whether the township took out a loan or issued bonds would depend on which option offered a better interest rate and which made more sense economically as far as being able to afford the payments, according to township Treasurer Dan Alberty.

Pearson said the township could also pursue grant money available to communities that consolidate their police, fire and municipal offices under one roof. If that was done, Fire Station #2 in Lakeville could be housed in the new building and the former station could be converted into a senior center complete with workout equipment, he noted.

Pearson said he's heard from prominent local residents who are in favor of tearing down the old hall and erecting a new one.

"Everybody, even the old-timers in town, is of the opinion that we need a new building," he said.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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