New district court breaks ground as part of municipal campus

By: Joshua Gordon | Shelby - Utica News | Published April 9, 2018

 This rendering shows the new 41-A District Court building, which will offer more space for staff and attorneys, as well as better security.

This rendering shows the new 41-A District Court building, which will offer more space for staff and attorneys, as well as better security.

Rendering provided by Brad Bates

 Shelby Township and 41-A District Court officials break ground March 28 on the new court building being built just south of the township’s Police Department.

Shelby Township and 41-A District Court officials break ground March 28 on the new court building being built just south of the township’s Police Department.

Photo provided by Brad Bates

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — The first step of Shelby Township’s plan to address concerns at the Shelby Community Center is underway, as the community broke ground on the new $5.2 million 41-A District Court at the end of March.

Officials from Shelby Township and the court on March 28 put shovels into dirt just south of the Shelby Township Police Department, on the municipal campus off Van Dyke Avenue and south of 24 Mile Road.

The township has been seeking ways to address building needs at the Community Center that houses the court, the Shelby Township Library, the senior center and the Shelby TV offices. The Community Center is located in a retrofitted elementary school just south of the municipal campus.

With construction underway on the new district court — which serves Shelby Township, Macomb Township, Utica and Sterling Heights — Judge Douglas Shepherd said it will help the staff both work in a more efficient manner, as well as better serve the community.

“I was elected in November 2000, and there were discussions even at the time on security concerns, space and everything being jammed into a confined area,” Shepherd said. “This provides additional space for the staff, and security-wise we will be able to segregate people who are being held in custody from not only the staff, but other people in the building.

“It solves a lot of issues we have in the current building.”

The new facility will be just over 18,000 square feet, and a new parking lot will combine with the Police Department parking lot to provide adequate parking for the court.

The court will have more space for staff, private attorney-client rooms and a larger lobby space, which Shepherd said is much needed.

“Currently, people are sitting on top of each other, and we have had fights in the lobby for whatever reasons — because people are so close and that creates problems,” he said.

The Shelby Township Board of Trustees unanimously approved a revised site plan and construction contract for the court in December of last year. The contract was awarded to Bernco Inc., based out of St. Clair Shores.

Bernco was the lowest of 11 bids received by the township and recently constructed a similar court building in St. Clair Shores. The bid came in at $5,001,120, with a contingency of $250,000, for a total budget amount of $5,251,120.

The board denied six bids in August of last year because the bids were deemed too high, with a range of $5.9 million to $6.9 million.

The cost of the court will be covered by justice building fine revenues. John Kaczor, of Municipal Analytics, which oversaw the financial analysis for the court project, said that at the end of the current fiscal year, about $720,000 will be available from that reserve.

Ongoing collections are forecasted between $140,000 and $160,000 a year, Kaczor said, so the repayment term is flexible depending on the final construction cost and the fine revenue. But the project will not be paid for with any tax money.

Shelby Township Supervisor Rick Stathakis said the board worked to figure out how to best pay for the project, even though it meant taking longer than maybe some would have liked.

“This has been a long time coming,” Stathakis said. “I heard a rumor that when the court moved into the Community Center in the 1980s, it was supposed to be a temporary home. Well, I guess we finally have them ready to move out of that temporary, 30-year residence into a more permanent home.”

With the district court underway, the attention will turn toward the rest of the Community Center. Plans call for a new 42,000-square-foot Community Center to be built on the municipal campus that will house the library, senior center, parks department and Shelby TV offices.

The sale of the Shelby Manor senior living apartment complex last summer for $15.3 million is expected to help cover costs for that project. The Community Center is estimated to cost $9 million.