Public hearing held on future of Boyne City’s EMS, fire, police, DPW and administrative facilities

architect webBenjamin Gohs

News Editor

While a handful of residents voiced the desire to see Boyne City’s future facilities located off the waterfront in order to use the property for park space, the consensus of the Boyne City Commission is that city hall  will likely be reconstructed right where it is.
Ray Kendra of Environment Architects, the firm helping the city create preliminary plans for the city’s future facility needs, gave an overview of several potential plans at the Tuesday July 8 Boyne City Commission meeting just before a public hearing on the matter was held.
“We started in April. We did some preliminary investigation of facilities … then we had about 10 meetings over the course of about two days, two-and-a-half days. We met with 10 different groups ranging from the different departments to the public to the city commission,” Kendra said. “So we took public comment during that time-frame in April. Directly after that we spent about three days on-site … and we developed some concepts.”

City Facilities Concepts
• Concept A—The first concept considers maintaining the current DPW garage facility and removing and replacing Boyne City Hall.
The DPW garage would be reconfigured to make room for fire, EMS and police. The work would include demolition and the addition of interior partitions. The existing steel structure would remain and new wood trusses would be required at the original brick portion of the structure. A small addition would be added to accommodate the police office.
The entire DPW building would receive a new roof, mechanical system and parts of the electrical and plumbing systems would be replaced. The structure would receive new insulation and its facade would be made to match the proposed city hall building.
The city hall would be located approximately over the existing footprint would offer room for city administration, an expanded public meeting area and space for future growth that could initially be used by either the museum or the MSU Extension Office.
Portions of the DPW operations may remain on the site as a new structure, with cold storage and the salt barn being relocated to the North Boyne site—or the entire DPW operation could be moved to North Boyne.
Overall project costs – $6,494,261
• Concept B—This concept explores maintaining the existing city hall and removing the DPW garage.
The plan would be to remodel the entire city hall interior with new finishes, mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. Portions of the existing mechanical system have the potential for reuse, quantified savings from reuse will require more detailed exploration. Interior spaces and functions would be reconfigured and shifted to alternate locations as required as part of the new plan.
A key aspect of the second concept would be an addition over the north end of the existing museum that would create a second floor meeting space and allow for future growth. The space would expand the public gathering space and offer a view of the lake.
Also, additions would be constructed to make room for vehicle storage for fire, ambulance and police and the building’s facade and energy systems would also be upgraded.
Portions of the DPW operations could remain on the site as a new structure, with the cold storage and salt barn relocated to North Boyne, or the entire DPW operation moved to North Boyne.
Total projected costs – $6,853,394
• Concept C—This concept would maintain a large portion of the current city hall and remove the museum addition and DPW garage
Concept C would remodel the entire city hall interior with the potential to reuse portions of the existing mechanical system.
Interior spaces and functions would be reconfigured and shifted to alternate locations as required as part of the new plan.
A new addition would be constructed in place of the current museum, that would create expanded public meeting space and room for future growth that could initially be used by the museum or the MSU Extension Office.
Also, building additions would be created to provide garage space for fire, ambulance and police vehicles. The exterior would also be upgraded in addition to energy efficiency  upgrades.
Portions of the DPW could remain on-site as a new structure, with the cold storage and salt barn relocated to North Boyne, or the entire DPW could be relocated to North Boyne.
Total estimated costs – $7,487,507
• Concept D—The final concept considers removing all existing structures and creating a new facility to house all of the city’s primary functions. This would include administration, public meeting space, and emergency services like fire, EMS and police.
Concept D includes a small second story space, not for public use, that would house living quarters for the EMS personnel and include exercise and storage space.
As with the other concepts, D could involve the DPW remaining on-site or moving to North Boyne, or some combination thereof.
Total estimated cost – $7,589,160
• DPW relocation to North Boyne concept—This proposes that all of the city’s Department of Public Works operations be moved to the North Boyne Site except for a small storage area at the Lake Street facility which would accommodate seasonal equipment used to maintain the adjacent parks and Lake Street grounds.
The existing cold storage facility would remain. The existing salt barn would be demolished and replaced with a new structure. A new metal structure with a masonry base to 8 feet would be constructed to house operations and primary vehicle storage. A pole barn would also be erected to help with cold storage.
Total estimated costs – $2,222,549

Public Comments
Developer Kirk Jabara said it is easy to put things on the waterfront and difficult to get them off the waterfront, suggesting the city take the opportunity to consider looking into the pros and cons of creating a new city park where the city facilities are now, and move the city facilities to a more central location.
One citizen suggested the city do everything it can to keep the site open for the citizens.
Todd Wright, a local builder, agreed that the city should consider using the current city facilities land for a new park.
“There’s plenty of places in town where we could put this,” he said. “You could just flip that plan 180 degrees and put it on the other side of the road.”
Wright added, “This is certainly not the highest and best use for this piece of property.”
Another citizen spoke in favor of retaining a city hall facility on its current property but moving the fire, police, EMS and DPW to another location.
Developer Glen Catt said he understands, to a degree, the desire of keeping city hall on the waterfront but that he had difficulty understanding why the emergency services needs to be there.
“I’m struggling to understand why we want the emergency vehicles coming and going when we’re trying to promote a pedestrian way,” he said.
Catt added that he felt the emergency services could be closer to the schools than they are currently.
Another citizen encouraged the city to take the time to consider other options than simply what has been presented.
Boyne City Firefighter James Farley said he and other emergency services personnel have put hours and hours of time in looking at the best options for where emergency services should be located, adding that the expertise of those who work in the field should be considered when determining where the new facilities will be located.
Georganna Monk of the Charlevoix County History Preservation Society said she wants to see Boyne City’s historical museum be maintained, and expressed concern that the pieces may be relocated to display cases around the proposed facilities.
“Once those articles in there are gone they are gone,” she said.
Charlevoix County Commissioner and Boyne City resident and realtor Chris Christensen said he understood the concern for wanting to maintain the view of the lake but expressed concern that moving the city facilities off that site might make the property easier to sell to developers in the future.
“I understand the need for development and the need for expansion but if this is city hall and this is where it sits … you focus this around the waterfront, you work together with the waterfront you don’t take city hall off it,” he said… “It’s a lot easier to build something on vacant land than it is to kick the city off here to build something on it.”
Christensen said he supports moving emergency services if there is a better location.

City Officials’ Comments
Boyne City Manager Michael Cain said the city has gone through long and deliberative process with its architectural firm to determine what other locations may exist, and that is how the four proposed concepts were arrived at.
“We looked at basically every property the city owned or could get access to,” Cain said.
He added, “After all the studies that we’ve gone through, the research, the years of discussion, the waterfront master plan, the public input processes, I think this is the best site for the majority of our facilities.”
Cain recommended the city build a new facility on the current city hall site if the city can get the support of the citizenry to fund the project.
Boyne City Commissioner Tom Neidhamer agreed the majority of the city facilities should remain on the current city hall property.
“I’m ready to move forward with new construction,” he said.
Boyne City Commissioner Derek Gaylord said the property across the street from city hall is not available. He also echoed Christensen’s comment that the best way to ensure the property remains in the city’s possession is by keeping the city’s facilities on it.
“This is all about serving the citizens—giving them the best operation for their tax dollars,” Gaylord said.
Gaylord asked if there was any reason why the city couldn’t build the new facilities in a phased approach as the city has the money to fund it.
Boyne City Commissioner Laura Sansom said the emergency services should all be located in the same area and she supports having a two-story facility to allow for future expansion. She also said the museum should remain a part of the city facilities, though she does not oppose historical items in display cases around the city facilities.
Sansom said the DPW building should be located at the North Boyne site.
Boyne City Commissioner Delbert “Gene” Towne said he wants to see emergency services consolidated at the current city hall location in addition to retaining the city hall on its current property. He, too, said DPW could move to North Boyne but that it may need to be scaled back to save money.
He said he would consider doing the project in phases if the funding cannot be secured to do the project in one shot.
Boyne City Mayor Ron Grunch supported new construction on the current site. He said the improvement of the city facilities has been a top goal since he began on the commission back in 1999.
Grunch said the city serves roughly 3,800 city residents in addition to another 10,000 people in the surrounding townships served by various services, and they are owed the best possible service the city can provide.
“Our best response times come from right here in the central core of the city,” Grunch said. “We’ve worked on this to come up with a plan that can serve the people to the best of our abilities.”
Gaylord said he would like to hear more from the citizens on whether they are willing to pay more in taxes to fund the project. And, he also said he would like to see if the DPW proposal can be altered to save funds.
Commissioners and Cain then discussed what it would take to get the question of whether a millage should be levied to pay for the project on the November ballot.
The city staff will research the matter and present the information at the next commission meeting where commissioners will likely further discuss the facilities. The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday July 22.