Source: Sherman Publications

Local architect could lease old twp. hall, bring it up to code

by CJ Carnacchio

December 18, 2013

The old Oxford Township hall could be the new temporary home of a local architectural firm if a deal is reached with the village.

Last week, the village council voted 3-1 to authorize the village manager and attorney to negotiate a rental agreement with architect Jim Wilson, owner of Wilson & Associates, for the 1,890-square-foot space located in the municipal complex at 18 W. Burdick St. The agreement must be brought back to council for approval.

“We are really far from signing on the dotted line here,” said Councilman Bryan Cloutier, who cast the dissenting vote. “We have a lot of things that are really not clear. Once we get those things ironed out, certainly, I wouldn’t be opposed to the idea, but we’re not near that (place) right now.”

Wilson sold his two-story building located at 23 N. Washington St. in downtown Oxford to Lake Orion resident Jerry Cremin, who plans to remodel it and open an authentic Irish pub early next year.

Wilson’s plans to move elsewhere in the village fell through, so he approached council about using the old township hall, which the village now owns, to temporarily house his business operations for six months.

“I really can’t say that it would be a real long-term thing,” he told council.

He proposed paying a monthly rent of $1,000, which would include utilities and property taxes. He also proposed paying to bring the building up to code as an offset against the rent.

In a memo to council, village Manager Joe Young indicated it would take an estimated $3,500 to bring the building into compliance for occupancy.

That got the attention of township Supervisor Bill Dunn, who was in the audience at the meeting.

Dunn, who lives in the village, wanted to know why the cost was so low given the township was once presented with a $75,000 laundry list of repairs/improvements necessary to bring the building up to code.

That list was prepared by Wilson, who’s served as the village’s building inspector since January 2008.

“I would suggest that the village hire someone else to go down there to inspect it,” Dunn said.

Young explained that Wilson’s $75,000 list from a few years ago consisted of “estimates of what potentially could” need to be fixed.

“Some of that’s been taken care of already,” Wilson said.

Young noted the village hired a structural engineer who evaluated the building and determined the floor joists could be reinforced “for a relatively small amount of money” using braces.

The manager went on to explain how the issue with the roof was also addressed by an inspector and the chimney area where water was leaking through was sealed.

“Those were the two major items,” said Young, who noted there was also an electrical inspection.

“I’d like to see the reports and see exactly what needs to be done and what the cost is for it,” said Councilwoman Sue Bossardet. “I am operating in the dark here. I don’t know what needs to be done and I feel uncomfortable because nothing is spelled out here. I’m hearing Jim (Wilson) say he’s going to do it and then I’m hearing it’s going to be applied to the rent. I’m uncomfortable with that situation. There’s nothing clear here written for me to make a decision (about).”

Wilson explained the structural engineer’s opinion about the floor joists “differed significantly” from his and that’s the reason for the discrepancy.

“I thought they were significantly weakened. He is saying no,” he said. “That’s a big change right there. There’s no removing of a plumbing system and reinstallation of floor structure (to fix the joists).”

“I still want to see the other document (produced by Wilson),” Cloutier said. “I want to see the current document and compare them myself.”

“Whether it’s Mr. Wilson or someone else moving into this space, we need to figure out what the parameters (for) bringing it up to code would be based on the two documents that are not in front of us,” Cloutier noted. “And then, at that point in time, if we’re approached in the future, we’d at least know what we’re talking about.”

Young explained the only other code issues that must be dealt with are installing panic bars and emergency lights for the exit doors.

It was also noted that the restrooms must be made handicapped-accessible.

“I think the (restroom) size is real close right now to being ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant,” Wilson said. “I have not measured either of them, specifically, but the dimensions that were published are real close. They don’t comply, I know, at this point, so there would have to be some stuff done there.”

In addition to addressing code issues, Wilson indicated he’d like to install new floor covering and exterior doors

“I’d like to see something a little more professional-looking than (the) residential-quality doors that are there,” he said. “I just see some things that I’d like to upgrade slightly.”

Wilson questioned if those costs could also be used to offset the rent or if they would be considered his investment.

Dunn expressed his hope that the village would charge the appropriate amount of rent based comparable lease spaces in the area.

“Does this council know (how much) this type of lease space would go for?” he said. “You’re (dealing with) my money because I live in the village and I would expect you guys to go out and do whatever’s fair.”

Cloutier agreed.

“We need an analysis of what the market value would be,” he said.