Washtenaw County considering closing juvenile court and other Platt Road buildings
Washtenaw County's deteriorating juvenile court and nearby offices off Platt Road could be shuttered under a proposal aimed at saving operating costs.
The recommendation calls for moving the court downtown at an estimated cost of $1.6 million, but officials say it would save costs in the long run.
That proposal is part of a county study of buildings and facilities use, which was commissioned to explore how to keep operating costs under control and improve the efficiency of county operations.
County Board Chairman Rolland Sizemore Jr., D-Ypsilanti Township, said he’s not yet prepared to support the recommendation. Commissioners reviewed a report at their meeting earlier this month.
Sizemore said he’s concerned about the estimated $1.6 million cost of renovating downtown court space to use for the juvenile division.
“I think there’s so many different options out there that I think we need to digest it a little bit,” he said. “But I think the answers are going to come real soon. I think we need to decide probably in 90 days what we’re going to do.”The recommendation from County Administrator Robert Guenzel calls for:
- Renovating the vacated 15th District Court space in the downtown trial court building at 101 E. Huron St. Renovations would allow for the juvenile court and the juvenile divisions of the prosecutor’s office and public defender’s office to move there. The 15th District Court is moving to the city's police-court facility, currently under construction.
- Leasing out office space at the Western County Service Center at 705 N. Zeeb Road, which is nearly half vacant.
- Selling the Platt Road property, possibly after demolishing the buildings there.
Guenzel said the county would have to wait for the 15th District Court space to be available when the city hall addition is finished, which is expected to be in 2010.
Guenzel said county officials need to refine the estimate for renovating the downtown court space. Some commissioners have questioned the projected $1.6 million price tag.
“I’m not going to support that,” Sizemore said. “Not at that cost.”
Demolishing the Platt Road facilities would cost about $50,000, Guenzel said.
He estimated the county could save about $200,000 to $300,000 per year by vacating the Platt Road buildings and moving into the trial court.
Guenzel said he was unsure how much the county could earn by leasing office space on Zeeb Road. “Some of the advice we got was space in that area was more attractive to lease than other parts of the county,” he said.
Prosecutor Brian Mackie said moving the juvenile division downtown has both pluses and minuses.
“I will leave that to others, since it’s not my call,” he said. “(Ann Arbor) is the county seat, but it seems to me (Platt Road) was a good location for people on the east side of the county to get to. And it has parking on the east side, which is nice. As you know, parking is difficult to find downtown.”
Among the other options mentioned in the report were building a new juvenile division facility on Platt Road at a cost of $6.2 million or renovating the Platt Road facilities at an estimated cost of $4.2 million for full renovation or $1.9 million for a partial renovation.