Dexter Considering Historical Property for City Offices
By Doug Marrin
The City of Dexter is in a pinch, literally. However, a solution may have arrived.
It is obvious to anyone visiting the City's office, located downtown on the second floor of the PNC Bank building, the space was outgrown years ago. And what the casual, or professional visitor knows experientially, was verified analytically five years ago when the City had a needs assessment done by Partners in Architecture.
To repeat, this was five years ago.
Here’s what the survey concluded in 2016:
- The overall state of disarray in the office wasn’t a good look for the City.
- The space was barely adequate for current staffing and offered no room for increased staffing as city functions increase.
- Privacy is marginal, and security is limited.
- Individual workstations are cramped and undersized.
- The conference room is undersized.
- The public has access to restricted areas when participating in the conference room. Same with the toilet.
- There is no space for formal training or public meetings.
- Storage, technology accommodations, and workroom space are inappropriate and inadequate in size. Same with the break room.
- Spaces are generally not code-compliant or accessible.
The assessment calls for around 7,000 square-feet for offices and council chambers (public meeting space). Square footage above the PNC Bank is 2,568 with a usable space of only 1,746. Nobody needs a five-year-old assessment to show there is a critical problem here. The need for new office space has been broached from time to time by the Council but is quickly eclipsed by the needs, discussions, and disagreements over a new fire station.
To get the boulder rolling uphill yet again, Councilmember Zach Michels introduced a motion in January for the City to find new space for offices and public meetings. In response, the Council asked the City Staff for their thoughts on the current situation. At the February 8, 2021, council meeting they submitted their report which included the following:
- “The items stated in the initial Facility/Needs Assessment are on-going. Many of the points included above are understated compared to current conditions.”
- “The City has equipment and sensitive files that should be stored behind a locked door. Due to the ‘open concept’ and general lack of square footage in the City Offices, there is currently no space available for secure storage.”
- “The desks, cubicle dividers, carpeting, and design of the existing City Office are the same as when the Offices moved to 8123 Main Street in 2001.”
- “Staff currently eats lunch at their desks. This has been the case for the last 20 years. Food preparation areas (mini-fridge and microwave) are intermixed with operational areas, and the only available clean-up area is the bathroom.”
- “The ‘work room’ is currently a set of 2 tables in the middle of walkways in the City Office.”
- “In some instances, particularly with pre-construction meetings, there is not enough room for all of the invitees. City staff must then rely on other facilities to host these meetings.”
- “There are no walls or doors. This results in Staff having to take sensitive calls (such as human resources calls and confidential business development conversations) in their cars.”
- “The lobby and/or waiting area for residents is non-existent.”
To the Staff’s tremendous credit, despite being environed by tower stacks of documents and filing cabinets, they made it clear that they wanted the Council to be prudent in any decision. In their report, the Staff expressed no support for any temporary move that would simply transfer the existing problems to a different location or a move that would be an unnecessary financial burden to the City.
3515 Broad Street
Enter 3515 Broad Street, Dexter’s former lumberyard back in the day stylishly remodeled a few years ago by MedHub into offices and a meeting center. The complex is located where Broad St. dead ends at Huron St., just past the railroad tracks which, fingers crossed, might be the right side of the tracks for this decision.
The complex consists of the main building of 11,482 square-feet and outbuilding of 2,106 square-feet with approximately 30 on-site parking spaces. The list price for the property is $1,986,000.
The Council and City Staff have toured the complex. All came away with favorable reviews. The facility is almost ready-to-go, the major exception being the need to install an elevator. The Staff’s consensus was that the property could easily meet current needs with room for growth as the City’s functions increase.
“I was pretty excited about having toured that facility,” Mayor Keough said during the Council’s discussion. “We've discussed many different locations…but frankly, this one I think has risen to the top for me.”
The Mayor noted the complex’s unique design, ample storage, and location near the City’s public works, among the numerous positive attributes of the property.
“It seems clear to me that this more than meets the needs expressed for city offices in a lot of great ways,” echoed Councilmember Griffin. She also pointed out positives such as windows in each office, accessible parking, building layout, and extra space potentially leased out as a revenue stream for the City.
The Council later entered into a closed session to discuss potential funding for the property and draft a purchase agreement. The agreement would not obligate the City to purchase the property but secure it until a decision can be made. The Council also approved a proposal from Partners in Architecture for an evaluation and conceptual design of 3515 Broad Street for city offices for $7,800.
Historically, the City of Dexter has had a strange relationship with its facilities. Most folks are aware of the new fire station conversation/debate/chess game going on for more than twenty years now. Less famous than the fire hall, however, but perhaps equally as puzzling, is the 2001 move of city offices (village at that time) from their former location, where the Sheriff’s substation is currently, to the second floor of what is now the PNC Bank. At that time, the City had fewer employees and did not administer its elections, which requires significant storage space.
At the time, twenty years ago when President Bill Clinton turned the reins over to Bush 43 and Richard Reid tried to blow up a plane with his shoes, the office move was only temporary until something permanent could be decided.