Washtenaw County plans department moves so that it can reduce office leases
Chris Asadian | AnnArbor.com
During a working session of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners Thursday night, infrastructure management director Greg Dill gave a presentation of a proposed space plan for relocating county departments.
“We want to get out of the business of using external resources or external facilities to run our operation,” Dill said.
In 2010, the county spent about $10 million on total building operations. The county's leased properties are all in its Eastern Campus in Ypsilanti and consist of about 10 percent of the building operations cost.
- Read the county's building inventory here: BuildingInventoryBookMarch2012.pdf
Rather than fill its buildings to the brim with staff, Dill said a more realistic occupancy rate is 80 to 85 percent to allow room for growth and storage.
The movement of departments and considerations for office space were based on square footage standards for work environments, Dill said.
A major part of the plan, and the first phase, would be to move administrative staff in the Washtenaw Community Health Organization from 555 Towner St. in Ypsilanti to the second floor of the county-owned building at 705 Zeeb Road in Scio Township.
As the second floor is an “open shell” right now, Dill said little funds will have to be spent on retrofitting the space.
Senior leadership would be moved first, Dill said. A second phase of staff could be transitioned into the space at a later time.
The building at 705 Zeeb Road currently houses employees from the county’s building, environmental health and water resources departments in the first floor.
The Community Support & Treatment Services program is also slated for a new space, as Dill proposed moving it from its location at 2140 East Ellsworth Road in Pittsfield Township to the county’s annex in downtown Ann Arbor at 110 N. Fourth Ave. The annex is a former YMCA.
“There’s a lot of synergy to be had,” Dill said.
Dill said the majority of the population served by CSTS -- which includes the Project Outreach Team (PORT) -- lives within a three-mile radius of the downtown annex.
Criticisms of disruptive, negative interactions between PORT visitors outside of the facility is one reason for the move to a place with space for clients to wait for service indoors, he said.
The annex will also become home to the Office of Community and Economic Development, as the county is nearing the end of its $400,000 lease for the space in the Key Bank office building at 301 W. Michigan Avenue in Ypsilanti.
The annual lease for the portion of the building that houses the administrative staff for the department expires July 31. Those staff would be moved to the county’s annex on North Fourth Street as an interim solution, Dill said.
For the portion of the building that houses the department’s One-Stop program for county services, the lease ends Jan. 1, 2013. Those operations would be consolidated with the department’s other One-Stop program service location at Harriett Street.
To fill the gap left by CSTS in its move, the county’s Youth and Family Services would take the vacated office at 2140 East Ellsworth Road. The services are currently being housed in a temporary space at 4125 Washtenaw Ave.
The Ellsworth Road building will have empty portions at the end of the implementation of the space plan, Dill said. Minor rearrangements to department locations in the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office at 2201 Hogback Road are also nearing completion, Dill said.
Community outreach services and human resources have been moved to the western side of the building.
The Learning Resource Center at 4135 Washtenaw Ave. will also be restructured to be more of a meeting space, Dill said.
Commissioner Barbara Levin Bergman voiced her support for the idea.
“We are so lacking in public meeting space. I think this is a terrific internal service as well as a community service,” she said.
At the county-owned court building at 415 West Michigan Ave. in Ypsilanti, the second floor has been vacant for more than a decade.
The Michigan Department of Corrections is tentatively considering moving its parole office into the space, Dill said.
“We hope to leverage some of the lease revenue from that move to provide security to the entire building,” Dill said.
The county currently has a lease agreement with Ann Arbor for space on the second floor of the Ann Arbor fire hall on Fifth Avenue for its newly consolidated police dispatch service. The dispatch room, along with the substation of the sheriff’s office, are slated to move to the Western Service Center.
Dill said he was also concerned about the use of the county administration building at 220 North Main St. in Ann Arbor,where the Board of Commissioners meets. The building is a former post office.
“Certain parts of the building give me pause when I see we have staff in certain parts,” Dill said in reference to parts of the basement.
In 2004 there was a major flood in the basement of the building.
“Since we have staff and storage there, that’s something that is particularly concerning,” Dill said.
The cultural significance of the building to the community is worth the extra effort of making the building work, said Commissioner Yousef Rabhi.
The county has yet to decide what to do with the former Washtenaw County Juvenile Center at 2270 Platt Road. The building will not be welcoming occupants as a part of Dill's space plan.
The space plan could come before the Board of Commissioners at its Aug. 1 meeting for approval. Should the board approve it, the first phase of all of the moves could begin at the end of August, Dill said.