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Senior center stalled

Township changes gear, agrees to look at Joslyn Road location

September 01, 2010 - To some it will come as good news, to others bad.

Plans for a new senior citizen complex near Clarkston and Lapeer Road - complete with housing and a three-story, environmentally-friendly multi-purpose senior/community center, are largely in the can.

"What's the advantage of moving it if we won't save money?" -John Steimel, Trustee
But Orion Township Supervisor Matthew Gibb told the board of trustees Monday he was determined to move forward with the project, albeit on different terms in a different location.

When it first appeared before the board last December, the project was slated as an innovative, public/private partnership between the township and a local builder.

Township costs for the project, which was to be paid for from the Eagle Valley Host Fee Fund, were initially estimated at $1.3 million.

The Host Fee Fund has a projected year-end fund balance of about $2.7 million.

In May, the board got news the price had climbed, but authorized an expenditure of 2.44 million.

Now, Gibb said, costs are somewhere near $3.3 million, and ancillary expenses for the Clarkston Road site could drive that figure through the roof.

Reasons for the change of plans he was recommending, Gibb said, were largely related to those costs.

"The public/private process has been difficult," Gibb told the board.

The Clarkston Road location presented costly issues like bringing water and sewer into the site and related costs from negotiating and obtaining easements. Safety path completion, the paving of Clarkston Road were also considerations.

"It could easily exceed $4 million," Gibb said.

In its current home in the Union Church in downtown Lake Orion, 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.

The solution could lie just down the road on land near Orion Oaks Elementary. The parcel, gifted to the township by Lake Orion Community Schools about 12 years ago, is ideal, Gibb noted.

"The topography lays out perfectly," he said during his new proposal Monday. "The project could be placed there without much difficulty."

Unlike the Clarkston Road site, the Joslyn Road location offers enough room to expand down the road, he said, informing the board also that conversations with NOTA indicated the organization was looking for a central location and might be interested in a look at the site, as well.

Plans still include some 4,400 square feet of space for Orion Neighborhood Television (ONTV), as well. The organization has committed about $600,000 for space, which is not included in the township's costs.

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.

While there were no plans to include senior housing in the new proposal, the community/senior center will still be built to allow extensive programming for seniors, a capacity the township does not currently have, and also serve as a place to host large community events - potentially generating rental revenue for the township.

The building was designed to meet LEED Certification requirements, Gibb noted.

LEED - Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design - was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council and is a green building certification system that verifies measurable energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources.

LEED, according to the organization's website, is intended to provide building owners and operators a concise framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.

"We designed it with steel instead of wood for jousts, walls, etcetera, as in Michigan winters things tend to flex and move," Gibb said, noting up-front costs could be recouped in future energy savings. "I don't want the board or the public to think we went with the extra options without due consideration."

Evelyn Doyle, a senior who works as an instructor in the senior center, told the board she'd be very happy to have a new building, especially one that didn't require a jaunt on Lapeer.

"It will be a lot safe for us to drive on Joslyn," she said.

Treasurer Alice Young said she thought the Joslyn Road site was a better location, noting it was more geographically centered in the township and there was no conflict with residents, as on the Clarkston Road site.

But Trustee John Steimel noted projected costs were about the same for both sites.

"What's the advantage of moving it if we won't save money," he asked.

"The dollars would be substantially less than currently represented," Gibb said, acknowledging his "wishy-washy" answer.

Gibb and his senior center "team" will look gather information and present back to the board.

If the Joslyn Road site doesn't work out, he said later, he'd consider other options, such as a return to the Clarkston Road site.

"We might also look for an already-existing building to renovate," he said. "Although I certainly don't want it to come to that."

Lake Orion Review Editor
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