At a Grosse Pointe City Council meeting last month, some City residents carry signs featuring rats and cheese to protest the possibility that the Department of Public Works might remain in their neighborhood. Residents say the presence of garbage trucks has long created a rodent problem for them.

At a Grosse Pointe City Council meeting last month, some City residents carry signs featuring rats and cheese to protest the possibility that the Department of Public Works might remain in their neighborhood. Residents say the presence of garbage trucks has long created a rodent problem for them.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran


Grosse Pointe City moves forward to relocate DPW to Detroit site

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published January 18, 2018

GROSSE POINTE CITY — Grosse Pointe City residents living near City Hall property — which houses the Department of Public Works yard — are delighted that they won’t always have the DPW in their backyard.

Although it wasn’t known at press time precisely when the DPW would be relocating, the City Council voted unanimously Dec. 18 to move to a St. John Hospital and Medical Center-owned property with a warehouse at 4849 Canyon Road in Detroit, behind Village Hardware. 

At the request of Mayor Christopher Boettcher, the City tasked Partners in Architecture with preparing a new analysis of the Canyon Road site alongside one of keeping the DPW in the City. Because limited space at the City Hall site has long been one of the challenges facing the DPW, if the City was to keep the DPW within its boundaries, Partners in Architecture also included some open storage in the back corner of a City-owned parking lot — Lot 8 — on Rivard Boulevard, just off Mack Avenue.

Although there were pros and cons with both options, the Canyon site was considerably less expensive — Partners in Architecture came up with an estimated capital cost of $6,615,047 for the Detroit site, compared to $8,177,451 for a proposal involving the Maumee and Lot 8 sites. Both sites require renovations to accomplish storage and other goals. A bond approved by voters last August for new facilities for public safety and public works, as well as an improved municipal court facility, included $6.3 million for DPW.

Resident outcry about not only keeping DPW in the City, but also expanding it to impact additional residents and businesses that use Lot 8, played an equally important role in the decision of City leaders.

“I’ve been a strong advocate of moving to Canyon,” City Councilman John Stempfle said. “The current DPW site is an embarrassment, is an eyesore. We need to get out of there, and we need to get out of there now. … There really are no advantages to staying on Maumee.”

Armed with handmade signs bearing the faces of angry rats and hunks of cheese, neighbors near City Hall expressed outrage at the thought that the DPW might stay in its current location instead of moving to the new, larger site in Detroit. The residents said rats — attracted by the scent of garbage wafting from the DPW’s garbage trucks — have been a constant issue for them.

Neff Road resident Roz Gietzen made an impassioned request to not keep DPW in its current location. In 1954, she said, her parents purchased the property where she and her husband live. At that time, Gietzen said, City Hall and the DPW were located on the other side of Maumee Avenue. City Hall and the DPW subsequently moved across the street, where they are now adjacent to Gietzen’s home. The DPW was built in 1964.

“We’ve had rats,” Gietzen said. “We’ve got a serious rat problem.”

Over the years, she said, they’ve hired pest companies and put poison in the yard in an effort to combat the rats. Of the latter, she said they only ended up with dead squirrels in their yard. At one point, they also had a dead rat in their home.

“A dead rat is a smell you’ll never forget,” said Gietzen, telling the council it “took months” to eliminate the stench.

In addition to rodents, she said parking is an issue, noting that City employees park in front of her house daily. The City Hall property has a small parking lot that’s shared now by employees of public safety, the court, City administrators and visitors.

Some residents accused the council of executing a bait-and-switch with the bond, which only narrowly passed last summer. They said it was their understanding from the bond language that the plan was to move to Canyon Road, and if that wasn’t the case, they wouldn’t have voted in favor of the bond.

Although some City officials in favor of moving to Canyon said the DPW facilities issue had already been studied in depth for years, Boettcher called for one last look at the options for the DPW.

“This investment … is the largest investment this city has taken in its history, ever, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly,” he said. “Tonight is the first time I have seen two options laid out (side by side).”

The council’s decision was met by applause from dozens of concerned residents who crowded into a conference room at the Neighborhood Club, where the Dec. 18 meeting was moved to accommodate more residents.

St. Clair Street resident Betty Smith — one of the residents who came to protest keeping the DPW on Maumee — said after the meeting she was “relieved and grateful” when the council decided to relocate.

Her neighbor, Pat McClary, echoed that sentiment.

“I’m very pleased,” McClary said of the council’s decision. “I feel that their priority is the community and our quality of life here. We need to preserve it.”

City Councilwoman Sheila Tomkowiak, who made the motion to move to the Canyon site, also felt the City was doing the right thing.

“I’m really excited about the outcome,” Tomkowiak said after the meeting. “I think it’s good for everybody.”

The council vote authorized City administrators to notify St. John officials of the City’s intent to close on the purchase of the Canyon property.