08/31/07 — County continues to push for projects

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County continues to push for projects

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on August 31, 2007 2:03 PM

As Wayne County officials and the Board of Commissioners debate and examine financing options for the school system's facility needs, other building projects are moving along -- all in various stages of completion. And they're continuing despite the resignation of building and grounds director Brandt Brown Monday.

The highest profile project, of course, is the new 11,500-square-foot animal shelter on Clingman Street.

With the commissioners accepting the low bid of $1.88 million earlier this month, construction is expected to begin sometime in September.

Helping finance the building is about $500,000 in community donations.

But it's not the only project county officials have worked on this summer.

In June, the Health Department completed a five-month renovation and expansion of its WIC building on North Herman Street. WIC, which stands for Women, Infants and Children, is a program that helps mothers afford healthy, nutritional food for themselves and their children.

Paid for primarily through state and federal dollars, 1,100 square feet were added to the building.

"We recognized the need to expand the WIC space because there was very little patient privacy over there," said Jim Roosen, health department director. "Mostly what we were trying to do was enhance patient comfort and privacy and expand our workspace."

On average, more than 2,500 clients come through the WIC building every month.

"We probably end up closer to 3,000 and it was just getting out of hand (in the smaller space)," Roosen said.

Other projects are a bit more long term.

The only other one close to seeing any sort of physical activity is the Jeffrey's Building on John Street. Currently housing emergency management services, it is still in the midst of an ongoing renovation.

Smith said that he is hoping the next phase of the project will go out to bid within the next 30 days now that design plans have been finalized.

Beyond that, the county is simply studying future possibilities.

One study looking jail space is expected to be completed and ready for presentation in September -- likely at the commissioners' second meeting, county Manager Lee Smith said.

It is expected to address the possibilities for renovation, construction or use of a satellite facility, as well as any immediate solutions to the overcrowded situation. Currently the jail, which was built for about 200 inmates, routinely holds more than 250.

The other study, which just got underway Monday, is looking at the Health Department, the Department of Social Services, Services on Aging and Eastpointe.

"We're doing an assessment of the programs and determining how much space they need, and also, how the programs are changing and how much space they'll need in the future," Smith said.

The goal is to determine whether a new building to house all four entities is needed, or whether they can be moved around into existing structures. Basically, he explained, he is trying to figure out how best to arrange those services so that they have the room they need to grow and are easy for residents to access.

This study, which is expected to take 90 days, is the first step in that process.

"It could be renovation of some large space, or it could be something new," Smith said. "But I want to make sure, before I look at anything, what kind of space we're talking about. We've got a lot of questions."

In the meantime, the Department of Social Services will be moving its child and adult services, child and adult protective services and its foster care and adoption programs out of the county's annex building on U.S. 117 sometime within the next month.

They will be headed downtown into the county's Borden Building, where they will share space with Eastpointe.

Smith explained the move was motivated by two things -- safety for the workers because the current location is so remote and ease of access for clients.

He did not specify how the annex would be used next.