Kent OKs funding for three new buildings


Kent County set aside $18.7 million to construct three new government buildings.

The $12.5 million North County Campus will be on 14 acres of property on 17 Mile Road NE near U.S. 131. The 30,000-square-foot facility will house police operations and contain a health clinic.

Another $2.7 million will go toward a new 8,000-square-foot, $3.3 million parks office and visitors center.

A $3.5 million, 16,100-square-foot facility will be built to house and maintain county-owned vehicles, mostly for law enforcement or court functions.

The remaining funds will be set aside for unseen circumstances with the projects.

The three projects were added to the 2020 capital improvement fund list. The Kent County Building Authority will manage the buildings.

North County Campus

Kent County purchased the 14 acres in 2005 with the intent to establish a north Kent County campus, according to a statement by Wayman Britt, Kent County administrator.

Commissioner Roger Morgan was vice chair when the county purchased the property, deciding Kent needed to have some resources in that area.

“It’s nice to see that we’re finally able to do this,” Morgan said. “And it’s really nice to see that we’re in a position where we don’t have to bond to pull this off.”

For the past 35 years, the northern sheriff's office has been inside a remodeled schoolhouse in Tyrone Township. The facility is used primarily as a base station for deputies and detectives working in that area.

The current facility has long been inadequate for the growing needs of the county, Britt stated. It includes a very small office space and briefing room, as well as inadequate locker rooms. This results in limited office hours for services such as finger printing and report filing.

The new space will allow better efficiency in several areas for the police department, said Matthew VanZetten, assistant county administrator. Police will have cars stationed there, meant to allow for better response times than what geography currently allows.

“This is a growing area of our county if you look at the demographics,” VanZetten said. “To provide services locally will be a much better response than having to drive into the core of the county.”

The health department has leased space at a retail mall in Algoma Township since 2003. The office has outgrown its existing space and needs to be relocated to better serve the community, Britt said.

Paradigm Design is the architect for the project.

Initial designs for the building include a shared public lobby and conference rooms, as well as space that could be used for other county services. While this facility would be positioned as the central and anchor resource for northern Kent County, the conceptual master site plan provides for other county development in the future as needed, Britt stated.

“I’m sure, as a result of this, there will be a domino effect in that region in terms of growth in that area, from retail to other services that would be connected to the program,” Britt said.

Construction is expected to begin in late 2020 and be finished in late 2021.

Parks office

In 2002, the parks department office was relocated from the Kent County Road Commission complex to the current modular offices at 1700 Butterworth Ave. SW in Grand Rapids near Millennium Park with the intent to build a new office on that site, Britt stated.

After some initial design challenges due to flood plain regulations and proximity to abandoned mines, the project was delayed. It was later funded and then defunded during the Great Recession.

The need for a permanent parks department office remains, and the plan is to build near its current site near Millennium Park.

“We’ve been talking about this for a long, long time, and it’s always been just on the top of my list to make this parks building a building that reflects Kent County,” Morgan said.

Early in the planning process, the Kent County Parks Foundation expressed interest in funding a visitors center as part of the building. Discussions are ongoing with the parks foundation regarding financial support for the visitors center, and the board will approve it later if an agreement is reached to construct the center.

The visitors center would feature Millennium Park's history, as well as information on recreational opportunities within Millennium Park and the entire county park system.

Without the visitors center, the estimated total cost is $2.7 million, which is coming from the county budget. With the visitors center, the total cost would be $3.3 million.

Paradigm Design is the architect on the project. Construction is expected to begin in the late summer of this year and finish in summer 2021.

Fleet services facility

Since 1957, fleet services has operated in a 6,500-square-foot facility off of Fuller Avenue. When it was constructed, the fleet facility served 35 cars. Today, fleet services maintains 290 vehicles, which includes 44 vehicles added over the past six years.

Additionally, fleet services now performs additional services that were previously outsourced, including installing aftermarket equipment for law enforcement vehicles and replacing transmissions.

Based on today’s standards, a facility maintaining a fleet this large and performing aftermarket installations should be much larger, Britt stated.

Many of the current fleet facility liability issues and constraints are based on physical limitations of the facility itself. The county said it investigated alternatives to alleviate the need for building a new fleet facility, none of which are viable.

A replacement fleet facility previously was funded but canceled during the Great Recession, yet the need for a larger, more modern facility remains.

The location for a fleet facility replacement would be most practically located near its existing office. There are two viable options under consideration.

Construction is expected to begin in summer 2021 and be finished in early 2022. 

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