By Benjamin Gohs
After more than a decade of discussion and oodles of studies, the Boyne City Commission is ready to request preliminary designs and cost estimates for its new city facilities.
Commissioners agreed to move out of the discussions phase during a Tuesday Nov. 26 Boyne City work session that involved commissioners and heads of the city’s fire, police, Department of Public Works (DPW), economic development representatives and engineering and construction experts.
“We need to move ahead with the RFP (Request For Proposals) for design options,” said Boyne City Commissioner Derek Gaylord following an hour of discussion on the matter. “This is what I’ve been asking for for quite awhile.”
He added, “If we don’t have goal deadlines, things never happen.”
Commissioners agreed to direct city staff to create a request for proposals that the commission was expected to review during its Dec. 10 meeting.
Boyne City Manager Michael Cain opened the meeting by giving an overview on the history and proposed needs for upgraded city facilities.
“The city’s really been in discussions about city facilities in earnest since about 2002. That’s basically when, in April, May and June of that year the city was kicking around what to do for its EMS services,” Cain said. “At that time EMS services were located here on this complex in the building behind us that currently serves as a housing for the DPW, the fire department and also some of the police vehicles and their evidence storage.”
He added, “At that time, that police chief and then city manager brought forward a plan to basically build some new quarters off the back that would serve as a facility to store the ambulances in and also some of the police vehicles.”
Cain said that project was expected to cost a couple-hundred-thousand-dollars.
“Ultimately the city came up with an option … at that time of looking to lease the facility where the human services currently are in the Korthase Flinn building on Fall Park Road and M-75, and we’ve been leasing that facility ever since,” Cain said. “We’ve had a number of discussions with regards to facilities over the years. We’ve had a couple studies done with regards to it—the most comprehensive of those is the one that was done in 2007.”
• According to Cain, the city has performed exhaustive research into potential sites for its eventual facilities upgrade.
“Basically everything was open, from completely abandoning this site to keeping everything here,” he said. “And, as we’ve gone through and basically whittled those options, basically two options seem to be out there still.”
The two main options being considered include moving the DPW to the North Boyne multi-use yard while keeping the rest of the city’s facilities—EMS, fire, police, city administrative offices—at the current city hall location; the other option being considered would simply put everything at the city hall location.
“None of the other sites really seemed all that desirable … and we looked at everything from all the city properties to private property as well, too,” said Cain. “So for awhile we were looking at the Federal Screw site, M-75 that empty facility, we looked at the red building over there by the library before they bought it … so I think we’ve done a pretty much comprehensive study.”
• As far as funding, Cain said the city has been lucky with grants but not with grants for facilities.
“There are no easy grants out there,” he said.
Cain said his preference would be a “pay-as-you-go” strategy for major infrastructure improvements. By breaking a large project into phases, Cain said, the city would be less likely to box itself in.
“There’s also options to finance the property. The city has retired previous bonding millages that have been out there for infrastructure improvements a couple years ago, and rolled back our millage rate so we do have some capacity out there,” he said.
Cain said a bond is an option for financing infrastructure improvements. The interest rate payable on bonds is currently averaging between three and four percent.
• Cain said city officials have talked with a number of consultants, architects and energy efficiency experts on the matter to determine if the proposed upgrades are appropriate for a design-build concept.
Soil borings have been completed and there is some groundwork that would need to be done due, in part, to the prior removal of old gas tanks from the property.
Cain said the 2007 facilities study seems to be the most useful outlook on the city’s needs.
“Between our complexes right now we have about 25,500-square-feet of space,” Cain said. “And, based on what was programmed at the time, based on the analysis and the review with the department heads, it looked that it was just shy of 50,000-square-feet of space that was needed for the different sites.”
However, the space projections from that 2007 study involved areas that were in isolation from one another and, therefore, did not account for potential efficiencies that could arise by overlapping.
Different scenarios and costs projected at that time included the recommendation to build a new DPW facility at the North Boyne site for a projected cost of $1,653,000.
“Right now, the city has set aside a million dollars in funds in our budget for the last two years that we haven’t spent out of there,” Cain said. “If we’re going to take on some of these projects, depending on how we do it, we may need to come up with more money with regards to it.”
• In his discussions with a Charlevoix County Building Department official concerning the costs and size of the new Boyne Falls Substation, Cain said he was able to extrapolate potential costs to Boyne City to build a new DPW facility.
For a 20,000-square-foot facility, which is slightly smaller than the size projected in the 2007 study, it would cost roughly $1.3 million.
“The last time we put up a building similar to it would be the vehicle storage and maintenance facility at the water works water/wastewater facility,” Cain said. “It was mentioned earlier we took a real hard look to see if we could have both water/wastewater and DPW at that one site … that did not pan out as much as I would have liked that too. It was just too tight.”
• Another financing option would be to levy a millage.
In order for the city to raise $3 million—financing it over 20 to 30 years—based on current taxable values, it would cost city taxpayers one mil or one-tenth of a penny per dollar of taxable value.
• Also discussed was the need to “refresh” the facilities study to ensure things like the number of ambulances needed for the EMS, fit current and future space needs.
Half of the team which created the 2007 study was present during the city’s work session.
Boyne City Water/Wastewater Superintendent Dan Meads said he has been looking at facilities needs since the early 1990s and cautioned that going with the bare minimum of needed space could cause issues quickly if new equipment is purchased.
“We don’t want to overbuild,” said Cain… “But then we should also have plans to make sure that, OK, if we have a large growth spurt or we need to change something significantly, we’ve got some room to move into—that we’re not maxed out.”
Boyne City Mayor Ron Grunch asked how much current space the fire department has filled and if it sees a future need for additional space.
Boyne City Fire Chief Dennis Amesbury said right now he has smaller equipment stuck in between larger trucks, which must be moved in order to access the smaller pieces.
Amesbury said he needs more room in which to work, space for washers and dryers, an exhaust ventilation system and room for other needs.
Cain said the DPW has current issues.
“We need more building space,” Cain said…. “In addition to that space requirements … we don’t have proper locker rooms. We don’t have proper bathroom facilities. There aren’t male and female facilities. It’s all grandfathered and we’re just kind of making it work.”
He added, “The office space has been built on in a creative fashion. It works. The guys make it work but it’s certainly far from ideal.”
Cain also said the space is not being used efficiently anywhere on the current city hall site because it was not designed to house city administrative, police and a DPW.
It was determined that the EMS service would be better situated—able to provide more rapid responses—if it were moved to the current city hall location.
Police and EMS would also need a shower facility for when they are exposed to hazardous substances while on duty.
The police department also requires better security on its reception area and overall building security in addition to secure interview space.
Grunch asked how much additional space would be needed for an evidence room.
Boyne City Police Chief Jeffrey Gaither said he currently uses three different locations to store evidence.
“(It) is very difficult to do,” Gaither said. “We would like to consolidate that to two: a main evidence locker room or facility and then another one for larger items for found property and bicycles; items that don’t require as much security but they still need to be locked.”
• Boyne City Commissioner Laura Sansom spoke about consolidation of the facilities.
She suggested a new combined fire and EMS building on the current city hall location be built facing the road, leaving the DPW where it is for now. She said that taxpayers might be more amiable to support a millage for fire and EMS services.
Cain said city officials should definitely spend more time considering the space available and how it could best be utilized. He also said the city should get opinions from experts on how they feel the space should be utilized.
“The study that was done in 2007 basically said start over again, forget all this stuff,” Cain said. “And that’s fine, if we want to go out and spend … upfront. If we’re looking at a phased approach I think it becomes more difficult to do that, potentially.”
Grunch said one thing that has not been discussed is a contingency plan to provide services to the city while remodeling or reconstruction occurs.
Boyne City Commissioner Tom Neidhamer discussed numerous issues including his change in opinion, which used to be that the DPW should be moved off the waterfront and placed at the North Boyne site, and his concern that it took 10 years to raise the million dollars that will not come close to fully funding the overall project.
“We have an obligation that, when we’ve told people we saved money for facilities, we act on that,” he said. “So I really appreciate this meeting.”
• Neidhamer suggested going for a $3 million bond. That would give the city a total of $4 million to upgrade its facilities.
“We get the proper architects bids, designs, to do it all at once, and have a vote,” he said…. “I think the town would support emergency needs.”
Neidhamer’s issues with moving DPW to North Boyne included changing that residential area to a commercial one; he also mentioned the fact that the DPW’s current location is much more centralized to Boyne City.
“Maybe the first design should be ‘Can we shoehorn everything we need into this facility?’” Neidhamer said.
Neidhamer’s suggested creating common training, shower and meeting rooms to maximize available space, and potentially creating seasonal cold storage for equipment overflow at the North Boyne site.
“I don’t want to wait another 10 years or another 20 years ‘til we can address each department’s needs,” he said. “That’s why I’m thinking the phased system might not work.”
City officials said another option is to move the museum in order to create space for vital services.
Grunch said there needs to be a tightly focused plan created before bringing the notion of a new millage to the taxpayers.
Both Neidhamer and Grunch supported the idea of the millage, though the issue was not discussed by the full board.
“It sounds like you’ve almost studied it to death,” said Howard Haselschwardt of Northwest Design Group engineers. “The studies get old and then you’ve got to study it again.”
Haselschwardt recommended city officials have a comprehensive design created and plans to present to the voters that include both phased and whole project plans.
“Interest rates will never get better,” he said.