GTC board mulls bid for campus consolidation | Local News
TRAVERSE CITY – A facilities master plan for Grand Traverse County could include a new jail attached to the sheriff’s department. It could include moving county services from the Governmental Center on Boardman Avenue to a new building on LaFranier Road. And it might include a much-needed juvenile detention center.
The Grand Traverse County Commission gave input Wednesday on a proposal from TowerPinkster, an engineering, planning and architectural firm that submitted the lowest of two bids to write a master plan that reorganizes county services into hubs that put similar departments near each other.
The county got two proposals and is recommending one from the Grand Rapids-based TowerPinkster, which has a lot of municipal experience, said Deputy Administrator Chris Forsyth. The $98,750 bid from the Grand-Rapids-based company came in at $150,000 below another bid from C2AE.
TowerPinkster renovated Old City Hall at 106 State Street, now the home of Greenleaf Trust, and designed Immaculate Conception Elementary School on Vine Street.
After assessing things such as the condition of each building, how much space is available and where it is located, TowerPinkster will present several options to a project team made up of officials from Traverse City and the county, as many buildings are now shared.
The team will then choose the best option before a final recommendation is presented to the county board and the Traverse City Commission for approval.
The proposal will be up for approval by the county board at its Feb. 15 meeting.
“I’m delighted that the city is in lockstep with us on this,” said board chairman Rob Hentschel. “Over the years we’ve had varying levels of cooperation between the city and county. It’s great to see they’re on board. We share a mass of public infrastructure with the city.”
The county and city have talked about splitting costs 50/50 for jointly-owned facilities, with each paying for work on buildings it uses exclusively. An intergovernmental agreement would have to be developed between the two before a contract is signed, with the county holding the contract, Forsyth said.
“Ultimately, there could be long-term cost-savings to both organizations, the city and the county, and together we could provide a better public service to our community,” Forsyth said.
Alger said TowerPinkster will seek input from judges, department heads and other city and county staff to come up with his plan. Public engagement sessions also will happen before any contract is signed, he said.
Commissioner Ashlea Walter asked about another project in the works, a mental health center that would function as a crisis stabilization and diversion unit and have short-term crisis residential beds for children and adults.
County Administrator Nate Alger said the center is not included in the scope of the bid, as it will not be a county-provided service.
“That is something the Northern Lakes CMH (Community Mental Health) will provide,” Alger said. “One of the discussions that Chris and I have on a daily basis is that it feels like we’re in a hula hoop, trying to manage which project we put to the forefront and which ones we slow down.”
The county recently set aside $5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds for mental health services and infrastructure.
As part of his work, TowerPinkster will develop conceptual drawings and floor plans, but will not include engineering or construction-ready plans, Forsyth said.
“What I like about this is we don’t have these preconceived restraints that we have to do this, we have to do that,” said Commissioner Darryl V. Nelson. “We’re starting from the 30,000-foot level. If we start putting those minutiae in this, it’s not going to come out as well and it’s not what we want.”
Forsyth said the idea of consolidating most county services to one campus is not new. He was going through some old files and found a facilities master plan created in 1997 that recommended combining county services at the Boardman campus — since property on LaFranier Road had not been purchased by the county until about five years later.
At that time, the county did not have the funds to do a study or any construction that would be necessary for consolidation, Forsyth said.
The Grand Traverse County Health Department and the Public Works Department are located at the LaFranier campus, which has about 26 acres that is unused. The county also owns the shared Governmental Center and leases space to the city; the idea is to locate city services at the Boardman campus and county services at LaFranier.
About a year ago, the county commissioners said they were interested in engaging a company for a facilities master plan, and $250,000 was earmarked in the 2023 budget.
Alger said funding for the actual project could come from the sale of bonds as the city is well below its debt limit, which is 10 percent below the taxable value of all county property, currently valued at $6.38 billion.
The study is expected to be completed in November, he said, which is a little earlier than expected.