By Seth Kinker,

On April 27, the city of Dexter held a public facilities meeting to gather public feedback on the ideas, costs, and locations that have been studied for the future of city offices, the sheriff’s substation, and the fire station.

At their meeting on June 24, council discussed the possibility of a follow up facilities meeting for July 31.

During that two-and-a-half-hour town hall in April, Partners in Architecture (PIA) presented their studies on plans for new and improved facilities.


A needs assessment was done by PIA and found that the existing square footage of the city offices (2,570 sq. ft.), the fire department (8,180 sq. ft.), and the sheriff substation (1,240 sq. ft.) was not an adequate amount of space. Options discussed and looked at thus far included renovations, as well as the relocation of existing facilities and compared the costs of multiple scenarios.

PIA calculated the optimal square footage for all three facilities; for city offices the difference was 4,600 sq. ft., for the fire department the difference was 9,220 sq. ft., and the difference for the sheriff substation was 1,360 sq. ft.

One of the main points of discussion centered around the fire station, which has been in service for over 35 years, with the building itself being 64 years old. City staff has been split on if, when, and where a new fire station could go, and it’s not a new discussion.

The conversation for a new station dates back over 20 years and has continued this year. The Dexter Area Fire Department (DAFD) chief and fire firefighters association have been vocal in their need for a new space.

In May, council member Zach Michels attended a Firehouse Station Design Conference in Illinois and during their June 10 city council meeting, proposed paying an architect from that conference to come speak to city council about station design.

Council discussed whether they wanted to someone come to speak to just council, members of the community, or both, depending on the topics that were to be covered.

Mayor Shawn Keough asked council how they wanted to discuss the issue. With a prior poll going out asking about availability, council wasn’t able to find a date where they were all free.

Council member Scott Bell said he wasn’t sure the architect needed to be invited to speak at another public facilities meeting and that it was separate from what could be communicated to the public.

Council member Paul Cousins noted that no one had come forward, besides a few written comments, since the April facilities meeting.

Michels proposed July 31 as the date to meet with the Ken Newell of Stewart-Cooper-Newell Architects, whether that be bringing him to Dexter or meeting via video conference. Although that might not necessarily be another facilities meeting, council discussed the need to go over content of the presentation before bringing it to another meeting with the public.

Council member Jim Smith suggested work sessions for the cities July meetings to gather questions council may want to ask about the presentation.

Keough asked why they wouldn’t ask those questions to the cities architect or fire chief.

“I’ll tell you why,” responded Michels. “Mr. Gassen (of PIA) has built two fire stations. This guy has built 276. Whatever we do, there’s going to be a significant investment. I think $2,400 is a pittance to pay for us to be confident in what we do. I want to find the best person in the room and pick their brains as hard as I can.”

Keough requested that they obtain a copy of his resume, and Michels responded that he would try and get a list of all 276 stations built.

Cousins stated his concern with obtaining all the necessary information before being able to place something on the ballot, the deadline of which is Aug. 12.

No official action was taken but city staff planned to contact Newell to find out what dates he would be free.