Macomb County’s $65 million bond plan doesn’t include park for Mount Clemens

FM NOTES:  The headline betrays the optimism I feel about continuing dialogue between the County and the County Seat. I’m committed to working out a win-win for the downtown when the dust settles, both literally and figuratively.

from The Macomb Daily/ February 25, 2015/ by Mitch Hotts

A $65 million revitalization plan for Macomb County’s Mount Clemens campus doesn’t include money for re-purposing the parking structure that will be demolished, but that doesn’t mean the conversation is over.

The Macomb County Board of Commissioners last week approved a bond issue to finance renovating several county facilities in Mount Clemens, including the Circuit Court building, County Administration, Old County, Clemens Center and Talmer building.

A separate resolution adopted by the board pledged to establish a timeline for co-development of a “specific vision and budget” for the parking structure on Market Street that eventually will be replaced by a parking deck at the Administration Building.

“It’s an extremely exciting opportunity to work on a key piece of real estate in downtown Mount Clemens,” said county Commissioner Fred Miller.

Miller, a Democrat from Mount Clemens, said plans call for county officials to meet with officials from the city and Downtown Development Authority to come up ideas on how to best use the 2.3-acre parcel of land that also faces Northbound Gratiot Avenue.

The DDA was hoping the county would allocate funds to develop the property into a $6 million park containing a winter ice rink, amphitheater, and splash park. DDA officials hoped to also include enhanced greenway connections in the program.

Miller said the period between now and 2017, when the structure will be torn down, gives the two sides “an opportunity to dream a little” on how to address the land.

“We need to have a meaningful conversation with all the stakeholders and come up with some collective visioning to make this benefit all parties involved,” he said.

Denise Mentzer, a member of the Mount Clemens City Commission, thanked the board for its commitment to the city.

“Some of us are very excited about any improvements you make to help improve the city,” Mentzer said.

This past Thursday, the county board voted 11-2 for a $45 million bond issue for the renovations. The plan’s total cost is $65 million, with the remaining funds coming from $10 million from the general fund and $9 million from an April 2013 insurance settlement from an electrical fire that forced the Old County Building to shut down.

Commissioners Veronica Klinefelt and Kathy Vosburg voted against the bonds, which will be repaid over 15 years.

Vosburg, a Chesterfield Township Republican, felt the plan was “premature” because it did not address planned improvements at the county jail. Klinefelt, a Democrat from Eastpointe, said she was concerned the projected budget assumptions were “too conservative.”

Board Chairman David Flynn called the plan “comprehensive, strategically and financially responsible.”

It will include $37.3 million for new fire alarms and heating/ventilation systems; $6.7 million for information technology; $6.7 million in replacement projects; and $6.7 million to raze the parking structure and build a new deck.

In addition, Miller said the county full recognizes the economic impact having so many tax-exempt government buildings have had on Mount Clemens’ budget.

To that end, county Clerk Carmella Sabaugh plans to meet in March with business owners in the downtown community to come up with “innovative” ideas on how to steer jurors and county employees into downtown businesses to help stimulate the local economy.

“Some of the business owners in the city don’t see the economic benefits, so there’s a disconnect there,” Miller said. “My goal in this process going forward is to bring those two sides together and keep that conversation going.”