Ice particles fly as Scott Sarti, of New Baltimore, shapes his sculpture during the ice carving competition at the St. Clair Shores Aqua Freeze festival in Blossom Heath Park Feb. 18.

Ice particles fly as Scott Sarti, of New Baltimore, shapes his sculpture during the ice carving competition at the St. Clair Shores Aqua Freeze festival in Blossom Heath Park Feb. 18.

File photo by Sean Work


Building through the year in St. Clair Shores

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published January 2, 2018

 The Music on the Lake concert series began June 14 with a celebration of Flag Day put on by Lac Ste. Clair Kiwanis and the St. Clair Shores Activities Committee. Here, the Plymouth Drum and Fife Corps, led by drum major Ethan Underwood, 17, of Farmington, performs.

The Music on the Lake concert series began June 14 with a celebration of Flag Day put on by Lac Ste. Clair Kiwanis and the St. Clair Shores Activities Committee. Here, the Plymouth Drum and Fife Corps, led by drum major Ethan Underwood, 17, of Farmington, performs.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Riggs, a Labrador retriever owned by Karen Magee, of Harper Woods, tries to take a drink during a splash party at the Statler-Maloof Dog Park June 11.

Riggs, a Labrador retriever owned by Karen Magee, of Harper Woods, tries to take a drink during a splash party at the Statler-Maloof Dog Park June 11.

File photo by Deb Jacques

 Lakeview High School sophomores Luke Hyde and Gabbie Grant paddle across the high school pool March 17 on a Titanic-themed boat during the annual cardboard boat regatta.

Lakeview High School sophomores Luke Hyde and Gabbie Grant paddle across the high school pool March 17 on a Titanic-themed boat during the annual cardboard boat regatta.

File photo by Deb Jacques

 Fireworks explode over Lake St. Clair during the St. Clair Shores Fireworks Extravaganza July 1.

Fireworks explode over Lake St. Clair during the St. Clair Shores Fireworks Extravaganza July 1.

File photo by Sean Work

 City Council members, St. Clair Shores firefighters and community members shave their heads to raise money for cancer research Sept. 23 at the St. Baldrick’s event held at Buffalo Wild Wings.

City Council members, St. Clair Shores firefighters and community members shave their heads to raise money for cancer research Sept. 23 at the St. Baldrick’s event held at Buffalo Wild Wings.

File photo by Sarah Purlee

 Participants take the first walk of the Walk St. Clair Shores 28-Day Challenge May 1 at Veterans Memorial Park.

Participants take the first walk of the Walk St. Clair Shores 28-Day Challenge May 1 at Veterans Memorial Park.

File photo by Sarah Purlee

ST. CLAIR SHORES — Construction barrels and equipment were a familiar sight in St. Clair Shores throughout 2017, as new developments progressed and the city began (and finished) renovations on municipal facilities. Here, we take a look back at 2017:

Renovations around the city
Throughout 2017, work was done on many buildings throughout the city. 

City Council approved Cross Renovation to begin construction on a new garage for the Police Department at its Feb. 6 meeting. With a bid of $166,327, Cross Renovation was the lowest of nine bidders for the project, which will be paid for with drug forfeiture funds.

The project will allow the Police Department to store animal cages and other equipment separately from where officers park the vehicles. 

“(It is) very, very dangerous to have prisoners in such close proximity to so many items ... that can be used as weapons,” Police Chief Todd Woodcox said when the bid was approved.

Woodcox said Dec. 21 that construction has been completed on the garage, and he expected the certificate of occupancy to be issued soon after.

Other improvements to city buildings came as a result of a $5.7 million energy savings performance contract signed with Johnson Controls in May. 

Since then, nearly all of the work contracted for has been completed, City Manager Mike Smith said Dec. 22. That includes roofs at City Hall, the golf course, the library, one fire station, Civic Arena and Blossom Heath Inn. In addition, HVAC units at the library, City Hall, the golf course, the Police Department and Civic Arena have been replaced, and all of the HVAC controls in city buildings are in the midst of being replaced.

The city also put in new ice-making equipment in the Gardens Arena of Civic Arena and new LED lighting that is dimmable for use during ice shows and hockey games. 

Smith said that nearly all lights in the city have been converted to LED lights, as have lights on the Nautical Mile. City buildings have also had their internet network wiring redone to increase speeds without increasing bandwidth.

“Over the 16 years (of the contract with Johnson Controls), we’re projected to save over $3.5 million,” Smith said, explaining that a little under $3.2 million worth of work has already been done through the contract. “So it’s been really great. The things we’ve started already this year ... we hope to finish up next year.”

With the contract, Johnson Controls guarantees the energy savings and will write the city a check if the annual savings aren’t fully realized.

Perhaps the most visible city building project in 2017 was the renovations and additions to the Senior Activities Center, which wrapped up this fall. 

A new exercise room with new equipment and a new kitchen that opened up just in time for apple pie season were among the improvements made to the center. 

 

Park improvements
The city also completed work on Blossom Heath Harbor, installing new docks along the seawall that had been rebuilt in 2015. The newly redesigned configuration was to have 36 18-foot docks and 42 30-foot docks. Some of the work was delayed until October because of issues with neighboring Miller Marina and setbacks, said Smith at the time, but the work was set to be finished before the end of 2017. 

Over the summer, 46 parking spaces and four handicapped spaces were constructed along the prior fence line near the boat wells, providing well renters with unobstructed access to the park. There is still a fence at the west end of the park by the guard shack, and boaters must still show their park pass to get through the gate to their boats and to the park.

At the municipal pool, six arms of the water slide had to be replaced with fabricated models to make it safe for the summer of 2017. 

“We had six arms fabricated and powder coated, even though there was only four that the (state) inspector originally indicated needed to be replaced,” said Smith at the June 5 City Council meeting.

In Veterans Memorial Park, a new bathroom built by volunteers opened for use by the public. City Councilman Peter Accica said that union members from Plumbers Local 98, Roofers Local 149, Bricklayers Local 2, Cement Masons Local 2, Painters and Allied Trades District Council 1M and Laborers Local 1191 came together to volunteer their time and effort to build a bathroom that the city had been planning for more than five years.

 

New vehicles for police, fire
A new vehicle for the St. Clair Shores Police Department in 2017 was the first to feature student designs after a challenge was put forward by Police Chief Todd Woodcox. The winning design featured a combination of creations by South Lake High School sophomore Jenna Hall and Jefferson Middle School eighth-grader Avary Black.

Hall’s design featured the word “police” in a digital camouflage print, which proved popular with members of the St. Clair Shores Police Department.

Hall said that although submitting a design initially was an assignment for class, she wanted to do her best to honor her brother, an officer with the Detroit Police Department. 

“A lot has been going on with the police officers,” she said at the time. She likened the current state of police officers’ jobs to the challenges faced by the military.

Black’s submission featured a large anchor and waves.

“I thought the anchor secured things, and police are the anchors of the city,” Black said.

New vehicles were also approved for the Fire Department in 2017. City Council  approved the purchase of a new rescue pumper for the Fire Department Jan. 16, replacing a 21-year-old vehicle with more than 124,000 miles.

In the year that the department celebrated its 90th anniversary, the St. Clair Shores Fire Department was also awarded an Assistance to Firefighters grant in the amount of $695,000 for the purchase of a new quint aerial apparatus. The city is responsible for 10 percent of that amount, or $63,181, as its match. Smith said Dec. 22 that the city should take possession of both vehicles in 2018.

The Fire Department spent half of 2017 being led by its former training chief, Ryan Koepp, who was appointed interim fire chief in July after the retirement of Fire Chief George Morehouse. In a December interview, Smith said that the city had made an offer to a candidate from out of state. Smith said the individual would hopefully come on board with the department in January after the background investigation concludes. 

 

Schools use bond money for construction
Both South Lake and Lake Shore public schools conducted major bond work in 2017. 

South Lake Schools undertook the biggest phase of its four-phase 2014 bond project with work that began at South Lake High School over the summer.

Tennis courts were removed and five were replaced. The remaining section of courts and unused handball courts made way for a new separate entrance for the culinary arts program’s restaurant, which will be moved to that side of the building. The high school kitchen and cafeteria are switching places with the culinary arts program kitchen, bistro and classroom to provide for the separate entrance, as well as parking for the bistro and food service employees. The bistro has been closed through the fall and plans to reopen in January.

“It’s kind of a challenge, the way we’re coordinating it. To do two kitchens at one time is very difficult,” said Dave Hambaum, director of operations and transportation for South Lake Schools, over the summer. “We’re working closely to orchestrate this so it comes off without an interruption of service to the schools.”

In Lake Shore Public Schools, work began on renovations in June for installing air conditioning and improving the electrical infrastructure to support student Chromebooks as the district moved to providing devices for each student at the middle and high schools this fall. Similar work was done at Rodgers Elementary School. Lake Shore elementary students did not receive devices in 2017, but will in the future.

Some spaces at Lake Shore High School that were not being used to their fullest potential — like a metal shop that is not being used at all and a TV studio that is much too large for the students’ use — were converted into more classrooms. 

“Structurally, our buildings will be in much better shape,” Lake Shore Superintendent Joe DiPonio said in June. “We’ll have them outfitted for the one-to-one initiative and it’ll be a little cooler.”

A big project at Kennedy Middle School involved the kitchen, which previously was a satellite like all other schools in the district. Now the Kennedy Middle School kitchen will be able to cook meals for its own students, and the serving line will be its own separate room.

Work at Kennedy Middle School and Rodgers Elementary School was set to be completed in 2017, with similar work being done at Masonic Heights Elementary School, Violet Elementary School and North Lake High School in summer 2018.

 

Businesses improve facilities in 2017
The Roy O’Brien Ford dealership, on the corner of Nine Mile Road and Greater Mack Avenue, underwent a large facelift and renovation in 2017, taking down the last of the original building that dated back to the early 1900s, when the facility was first a Hupp Motor Car Co. and then the headquarters of the area’s Fire Department. 

The original renovation plan called for 30 feet of the building to be demolished, but an amended plan approved in February by City Council demolished all of the remaining showroom to make way for a new building wrapped in glass. 

“It’s all in the name of progress and getting everything state of the art,” said Mark O’Brien in February. “I think both grandfather and our dad would be supporting us on the decision. You have to stay with the times. You want to have a very clean and exciting environment.”

This was the second phase of renovations to the dealership, which first completed an eight-month remodeling of its service department.

“The Nine Mile-Mack corner, that’s fantastic,” said Mayor Kip Walby Dec. 21. “Roy O’Brien, they did a beautiful job, and the old bank, it’s a new AT&T store. It looks really nice.”

He also pointed to projects like Gaudino’s and two new senior living facilities being built in the city as improvements made in 2017.

“The new gem is Gaudino’s (on Harper Avenue, north of 11 Mile Road). It opened in early ’17,” he said. “I think it’s been very successful. 

“That was a home run for St. Clair Shores.”

 

Roadwork delays impact residents
A $2.4 million project for M-K Construction to construct the 10 Mile Sanitary Relief Sewer was ongoing through most of the year. The company had not previously done the type of microtunnel work the city wanted used for the project, which was supposed to save money and trees on 10 Mile Road.

Speaking at the Sept. 18 City Council meeting, Smith said that while work was expected to wrap up that week on the portion of the project along Jefferson Avenue, the underground work on 10 Mile Road still had not been finished, despite being scheduled for completion by the end of July.

The portion of the sewer replacement from Jefferson to Harper was expected to be complete by early November, and the portion from Harper to Little Mack was expected to take until January. Resurfacing will not be completed until 2018.

Some of the delays were due to large obstructions and boulders in the way of the microboring process. Another delay was due to a utility lead connection that wasn’t on any drawings, which caused work to be redirected.

Work on Clairwood and Beste streets, among other residential streets, as well as on 12 Mile Road, also left residents seeking alternate routes and trying to find ways to get home.

 

‘I want to thank them for a great 2017’
Speaking at the last City Council meeting of the year, Walby thanked volunteers and employees for a “great 2017.”

“If you’re in St. Clair Shores these 12 months, there is always something to do,” he said Dec. 18. 

He said most of that can be attributed to hardworking volunteers and employees.

“These individuals ... know that they’re here to serve the residents, and they do a great job,” he said. “I want to thank them for a great 2017.”

City Council also put in hard work this year, he said. 

“Who cares what goes on in Washington, D.C., or Lansing? This is where it’s at,” he said. “It’s a great place to live, a great place to work, a great place to play.”