Bids preparing to go out for AEP renovation

Published 8:34 am Friday, May 10, 2024

ST. JOSEPH — Plans are coming along for the county’s expected move into the former AEP office building in Buchanan. Thursday, County Commissioner Jim Curran reported that the county is preparing to go out for quotes on renovating the building so it can house a number of county offices.

Curran reported that the full county board will be formally applying for the $3 million grant U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg’s office has secured for the county to help fund renovations to the former AEP building. The county is now calling the building “500 Circle” after purchasing the building in 2022. 500 Circle Drive is also the building’s address.

The county will be sending out requests for quotes this summer. An initial evaluation of the three-story building space showed that existing bathrooms, elevator layout, and building access/approaches needed redesign.  There was also an investigation relative to the operational needs of the county departments moving to the space.

The county plans to move the 9-1-1 Dispatch/Emergency Operations Center offices to the 500 Circle building initially, with other departments utilizing the space later including a south county branch of the County Clerk’s office.

Information provided by Curran and County Administrator Brian Dissette noted that the contractor awarded the bid will additionally be asked to assess opportunities to best leverage any unallocated spaces of the building that remain after locating the 9-1-1/Emergency Operations Center there.

Companies interested in bidding on the project will have to submit their bids/quotes by July 10 with county board action coming Aug. 1. Work by the winning contractor is expected to start by Nov. 11.

A new $8 million 800 megahertz communications tower is in the process of being placed on property near the 500 Circle building. The tower is being constructed behind the Buchanan Township Fire Station on North Main Street outside of Buchanan. The county received a $5 million state grant in 2021 to pay for the bulk of the costs of erecting the tower.

Thursday’s county board meetings also featured an update from Community Development Director Dan Fette on new state laws regarding solid waste management that will require more county oversight of landfills and efforts to reduce waste streams.

Fette said the state is requiring counties to come up with materials management plans and that Berrien County has already partnered with Cass and Van Buren Counties to come up with a joint plan with help from the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission.

He said the next steps will be approve the three-county agreement and then to establish a materials management planning committee to draft a new materials management plan for the three counties. That committee will be made up of elected officials as well as representatives of area landfills and related businesses.

Fette told commissioners that each of the three counties will be getting $510,000 from the state to pay for the committee work over the next three years. He said it’s still unclear whether there will be state monies available to actually implement the plan. The county currently gets revenue from tipping fees paid by area landfills.

He said that with the new state laws, the county will have some enforcement duties that are now being done by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. He gave the example that the county may have to inspect and enforce rules about diverting waste from landfills to recycling.