Yankee Springs moves ahead with township hall design plans – despite public objection
A nearly $900,000 project to renovate and add on to the Yankee Springs Township Hall is moving ahead, despite objections from some residents and two board members.
On a 3-2 vote last Thursday, the township board approved spending $95,500 to have the engineering firm Fleis and VandenBrink provide design development services, construction documents and bid documents for the project at the township hall at 284 N. Briggs Road.
Residents who attended the meeting used words like “shameful” to describe the board's action, saying this project is proceeding with little or no public input.
“I find it appalling that you pushed this plan through; that a million dollars of taxpayer money [will go to this project]. It should be brought to the public,” Linda Thomas, who has lived in the township for 28 years, said during public comment. “That is ridiculous. I find it to be a disservice to your (community).”
The vote came one night after the board held a special meeting to look at options for the township hall that included renovation work at the current site as well as the feasibility of building a new township hall next to the fire station on M-179.
At the start of the Oct. 10 meeting, trustee Larry Knowles made the motion to have the Fleis and VandenBrink proposal added to the agenda.
Knowles, who served on a renovation committee that, last month, had recommended improvements to the hall, was joined in the 3-2 majority vote by Clerk Jan Lippert and Treasurer Alice Jansma. Supervisor Mark Englerth and Trustee Shanon Vandenberg voted no.
“We need some more time,” Vandenberg said. “We haven't even discussed how we're going to pay for it.
“We're going to give a corporation a go-ahead, and we haven't even discussed how we're going to pay the bill.”
Englerth said that, considering the potential cost of the project, “it deserves a better discussion than we're giving it.”
“What do the taxpayers want? What does the public want? Are we funding this thing out of the general fund balance or borrow it over 20 years?” Englerth asked. “Does the public want a vote at the table? Have we exercised all our options? Is it the right thing to do?”
Knowles defended the renovation committee recommendation, saying it was given due diligence.
“There were plenty of options presented. As a matter of fact, they did consider the fire barn [on M-179], but the engineer plainly said it won't hold it,” he said. “If you're considering the fact that we just recently added 30 parking spaces to this facility, because 30 [existing spaces] wasn't enough, that's all we can fit over there, is 30 [spaces]. They're clearly saying there's not enough room to put this size of building over there to fit parking. We then looked at a few different options of how to renovate this building.”
Under conceptual plans presented by Fleis and VandenBrink to the board Wednesday, Oct. 9, the project would renovate the nearly 4,000-square-foot existing building, including the meeting room and offices, and build a 1,727-square-foot addition to the north, at an estimated cost of $898,500.
“We were asked to take a look at doing an addition to this building and some improvements to upgrade it and make it function a lot better for the staff,” David Gibbs, an architect for Fleis and VandenBrink, said during that presentation Wednesday.
The renovation would include exterior masonry restoration, addition of a new exit door to the south side of the building, creation of a conference room, a wider ramp that would meet standards under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a new heating and cooling system, new flooring, construction of a new closet that would house the township's information technology server, and ceiling-mounted monitors that would allow both the public and board members to see information presented from the podium at board meetings, Gibbs said.
The office addition would include a separate entry from the meeting room entrance, service windows for the clerk and treasurer, along with private offices for the supervisor, clerk, assessor and future zoning administrator, Gibbs said.
Gibbs and F&V construction manager Jerry Fleis also presented an option to the board for a new 5,716-square-foot township hall at the fire station site.
That option would carry a likely price tag of $2.3 million, but would only allow for 33 parking spaces.
The Yankee Springs Township hall meeting room was built in 1971, and offices were added to the hall about 1975, according to Chuck Biggs, who was the township clerk at that time.