By Rosemary Horvath
This year, the Hayes Township Board of Trustees intends to embark on a major building project that will transform township property without raising taxes or issuing bonds. Estimated cost is $2.6 million
Their plan is to replace the existing township hall, repurpose the Civic Center building and reel in township services to plant at one location.
An added benefit in the process is having the parking lot leveled and a section of high ground lowered to eliminate traffic blind spots at the 2051 E. Townline Rd. property.
“This is a bad driveway to get out of,” said township Treasurer Maye Rood. “The hill will be gone as part of the project. You will come in on Townline and can go behind the market to get out.”
The township board has voted to move forward with a bidding process.
Along with grant funding, the township is eligible for a low-interest loan from USDA Rural Development.
To make loan payments, the board has eliminated an annual payout provided elected officials.
“We have cut our benefits,” Rood explained. “We had some things in lieu of health insurance and it was a hefty amount each year,” which amounted to $130,000.
Adding, she said “We will not contribute to retirement fund of former elected officials. In lieu of medical insurance and doing with the 15 percent retirement payment, we can save this money.”
Removing the existing hall will create a clear vision for a refurbished and enlarged Civic Center building to be renamed Hayes Township Complex.
The Civic Center redo includes constructing township offices at one end and kitchen at the other.
Last year the center was shuttered after carbon monoxide leaks were detected from four of the six furnaces and sickened several workers.
Instead of razing the building, officials decided to build upon the building’s steel structure and gym floor foundation. New roof, insulation and siding will be added. Rood said a mechanical room will be furnished on a second level.
The building will be completely energy efficient, she said, possibly to the extent of the Clare County Transit Center constructed with LED lighting, geothermal, wind and solar energy.
Function of the complex will be multi-purpose.
Rood explained, “Our long term goal for the gym is to have an activity coordinator for activities like we used to have. We will charge fees to rent the building to use to maintain it. We are in the process of upgrading the township parks and recreation plan.
“Our goal is to bring everything to our 17.5 acres here. We will have music in the park, craft shows, baseball fields, senior meal site and voting precinct here. Everything will be maintained on our property here in town.”
As it is, the township maintains 117 acres scattered at different locations “and why we were going in the hole,” Rood said.
The Community-Senior Center Building and land at 3821 N. Grant Ave. will be sold. Proceeds will be applied to the Townline Road project.
Grant funding will offset construction costs, such as grants for emergency shelters and commercial kitchens. Both uses will be available at the complex. A commercial kitchen can be rented by anyone who prepares products for farmers markets, or teaches culinary classes.
Rood and Supervisor Terry Acton regularly meet with architects from the firm of Goudreau Associates of Mount Pleasant. Constituents are invited at monthly work sessions the second Tuesday to hear the board discuss issues. No action is taken until the regular board meeting the following week.
Officials began testing the waters and weighing possibilities last year. By November, they had in hand cost analysis versus rental revenue indicating revenue fell way short of what would be needed to refurbish the buildings.
A feasibility study put remodeling at $300,000 for the Townline Road township hall and $200,000 for the Grant Road building.
Architects had proposed four floor plan options. A fifth option was to do nothing.
“It was important to us to get heartbeat of the community,” Rood said.
A Dec. 16 town hall meeting at the Grant Road building drew more than 60 constituents. Present to answer questions were architects and Rural Development officials.
Rood said citizens studied copies of the proposals for weeks. The board discussed results at the Dec. 22 meeting. And at a special meeting Jan. 2 decided to move forward with the preferred plan.
“We are committed to keep the momentum going,” Rood said. “The board has put its heart into moving the township forward.”