Buchanan planning, city commissions host joint work session

Published 1:13 pm Wednesday, January 6, 2021

BUCHANAN – The decision on where to locate the new Department of Public Works building is likely to come sooner rather than later. Buchanan Mayor Sean Denison said Tuesday that he wants to see the City Commission decide on that issue at their Jan. 11 meeting.

Denison made that statement at Tuesday night’s City Commission joint work session with the city’s planning commission. The nearly three-hour meeting featured discussion on not only the DPW building but also other city owned properties. Like many meetings over the last several months, it was hosted via Zoom and had dozens of people attending.

“I think a vote on the 11th is the smart thing to do so as to not leave the Greens hanging and we have to get things going if we’re going to build on the current site,” he said.

Bill and Mack Green have constructed a commercial/light industrial building on East Third Street in the hope of having the city lease it and locate the DPW there. Until recently, it had appeared that site had the inside track on being the new DPW location.

Denison said deciding on what to do about the DPW building is the top priority for the city before looking at the future of other city owned properties discussed at Tuesday’s meeting. “The top priority needs to be deciding what to do about the DPW so everyone can move forward,” he said.

From what was said Tuesday, the E. Third Street site is no longer commissioners’ top choice as the site for the new DPW facility. Commissioners seemed most interested in building a new facility on the current DPW site at the end of Clark Street. The current building is in disrepair with city officials told it should be replaced within the year.

That site also seemed to be the one also favored by planning commissioners and residents in attendance.

“The DPW needs to stay where it is,” resident Penny Slocum said. “If the city leases a building, it’s just a waste of money that could be spent on fixing up the current building or building a new one.”

Others said they didn’t think that either the Green site on East Third or city owned land on River Street were good choices for the new DPW home. Several people felt that there were better uses for those properties that better fit into the city’s future plans.

“From an individual’s perspective, I don’t think having it down on Third Street meets the vision we have for that area,” said Planning Commission Chairman Jason Lietz. “Having a lot of equipment and piles of materials there doesn’t fit in with other uses planned for that area like a health food store, condos and the fitness center. It would be like a fish out of water.”

Denison asked City Manager Heather Grace to put together a survey for city commissioners and planning commissioners to complete in the next few days about not only where they want to see the new DPW facility be placed but also what they want done with other city owned properties.

Grace said the survey will allow people to say where they want the DPW building to be as well as what they want to do with the current City Hall, the historic Ross/Sanders House and the fire and police departments.

The future of those properties was under discussion because of repairs needing to be made at city hall, Ross/Sanders and the fire department. In addition, the police department’s current home in the Edgewater Bank building is under review because Edgewater Bank is asking to get out of that lease.

Edgewater has merged with United Federal Credit Union and wants to close their location on East Front Street. While there was some discussion about moving city hall offices to the Edgewater building, there was more interest in moving the police department out and putting the Edgewater building on the market.

Commissioners and others in attendance appeared to favor renovating the current city hall and fire station buildings rather than relocating them to a new municipal complex. As for the police department, people seemed to be split on whether to move the police back into the Ross/Sanders House or add onto city hall.

A number of people suggested that the Ross/Sanders House was less suited to be the police department’s home and more suited to be something like a visitor’s center, museum or home to the chamber of commerce. The police department had called Ross/Sanders home until the move to the Edgewater building in 2013.

Other city owned properties were also discussed at the meeting, including individual parcels on Michigan, Elizabeth and Bluff Streets on the city’s north side and the old feed mill property. Commissioners said they wanted to know more information about the plans of potential buyers before deciding on selling them.

Commissioners appeared to want to take a pass on a request from the owner of a four-acre property on N. Redbud Trail. The owner had suggested the land be a site of a new municipal complex but commissioners and others said they saw the property as more appropriate for residential development.