The renovated Grosse Pointe Woods Department of Public Safety’s new jail opened this past summer. The department received a $500,000 grant to renovate the jail, and the city put in an additional $146,476 for the project.

The renovated Grosse Pointe Woods Department of Public Safety’s new jail opened this past summer. The department received a $500,000 grant to renovate the jail, and the city put in an additional $146,476 for the project.

File photo by Maria Allard

Grosse Pointe Woods: A look back

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published December 30, 2019


GROSSE POINTE WOODS — In 2019, Grosse Pointe Woods had the misfortune of a flood at City Hall, the Public Safety Department’s new jail opened, a new City Council member was elected, and several city projects continued. Here is a look back at 2019.

City Hall flood
Since March of this year, City Hall employees have been conducting business inside the community center. That’s because of a flood that occurred during the early morning hours of March 3 at City Hall. An improperly fastened joint of two water pipes —  part of heating and cooling system renovations occurring at the time — caused the flooding.

An inch of water flooded the City Hall business office. In addition, two layers of ceiling came down in City Administrator Bruce Smith’s office, and there was water damage from leaks in the ceiling.

The City Hall municipal complex, located at 20025 Mack Plaza Drive, includes City Hall, the Public Safety Department, the community center and the municipal court. Except for the carpeting outside the courtroom, none of the other areas flooded.

When the flood happened, city officials were conducting a complete renovation of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems that had been installed when the building was constructed in the 1960s.

Once the water was turned off and the leak was repaired, the first priority was to have a company conduct a survey for asbestos inside the building. Asbestos was found in the glue pods that held the ceiling tiles in place and in some of the insulating materials around plumbing. Taking care of the asbestos problem caused a significant delay in the cleanup.

Now city officials are ready to begin renovations on what was damaged during the flood. At the Nov. 18 City Council meeting, the board approved 6-0 a contract to APCOR Construction and Development, in St. Clair Shores, for the renovations. Councilman Michael Koester was absent.

According to city documents, APCOR’s bid was $490,820. The council also approved a contract of $3,400 to Stucky Vitale Architects, in Royal Oak, for construction oversight. The city also is purchasing a fire alarm for $12,612.

While the city’s insurance company is covering the renovation costs, Smith said the city is paying for the fire alarm, The whole project is not to exceed $506,832. Smith said the renovations are expected to begin Jan. 6.

“They have to redo the wall, floors and ceilings,” Smith said. “We’re changing our office layout to have a better workflow. There are no additions. We still have the same space; we’re just moving things around. We hope to be done within 90 days.”

Renovated jail opens
This past summer — and after one year’s time for renovations — the Grosse Pointe Woods Department of Public Safety’s new jail opened. According to Public Safety Director John Kosanke, the upgrades include a more spacious jail that enhances efficiency and is more secure. The department received a $500,000 grant to renovate the jail, and the city put in an additional $146,476 for the project.

The renovations include two standard jail cells, a holding area, a cell that meets the Americans with Disabilities Act’s criteria, and a bullpen cell that can hold multiple inmates at one time. The revamping also provides an area where victims and complainants can make public safety reports with more privacy than before, and there are three interview rooms.

The upgraded lockup facility houses a new processing area where suspects are fingerprinted, have their mug shots taken and where video arraignments from various courts can be conducted. There’s also a locker area where personal belongings of those arrested are stored.

Several cameras were added, and all movements and activity are documented throughout the building via video and audio surveillance.

“The building was built in the early 1950s, and for a long time we operated with two jail cells,” Kosanke said in July. “Right across (from) the cells was the detective bureau, and the (prisoner) lockup area was not weapon-free. You had prisoners near detectives who were armed. The detective bureau was moved to where the old fire quarters were kept.”

Another issue was having to separate male and female prisoners. Also, because of certain laws, juveniles had to be placed in an area out of sight from adults, so arrestees were sometimes placed in neighboring jurisdictions. Other issues arose on court dates, because sometimes there was not enough room for all the prisoners.

New face elected to City Council
Five candidates ran for the three four-year open seats in the 2019 City Council race. On Nov. 5, incumbents Michael Koester and Art Bryant were reelected to the council with 2,680 votes and 2,545 votes, respectively. Challenger Kenneth Gafa was elected with the second-highest vote total, 2,548 votes.

With 2,026 votes, incumbent Richard Shetler Jr., who sought his third term, didn’t receive enough votes to get reelected. Challenger Seth A. Winterholler garnered the fewest votes with 1,951 and was not elected.

Ted Metry ran unopposed for a four-year term for Grosse Pointe Woods Municipal Court judge and was reelected with 3,792 votes.

Shetler’s campaign drew controversy when — through a Freedom of Information Act request to City Hall — he received names, email addresses and home addresses of residents via water bill and city parks lists. After receiving the information, Shetler reportedly used it to email residents about his bid for reelection. The city’s FOIA officer granted the request, but city officials have since said that was an error.

At the Oct. 21 City Council meeting, the council discussed the matter and voted 6-0 for the city to send a letter to residents who received emails from Shetler regarding his campaign. The city was to apologize for the erroneous dissemination of these email addresses. Councilwoman Vicki Granger was absent.

Library building improvements in the works
At the Sept. 26 Grosse Pointe Public Library Board of Trustees meeting, the library board voted 7-0 to award a $123,000 contract for building improvements at all three branches to architectural firm Quinn Evans.

The Central Branch is located at 10 Kercheval Ave. in Grosse Pointe Farms. The Ewald Branch is located at 15175 E. Jefferson Ave. in Grosse Pointe Park. The Woods Branch is located at 20680 Mack Ave. in Grosse Pointe Woods.

All three branches are undergoing renovations based on a space needs and capital assessment study that library officials conducted over several months with krM Architecture, Plante Moran Cresa, and livingLAB Landscape Architecture.

The decision for the upgrades was made after a yearlong critical needs assessment was conducted with four community engagement sessions as well as input from staff at all three branches.

The $123,000 contract awarded Sept. 26 will fund phase 1 of the projects. The phase 1 improvements planned for the Central Branch include the renovation of the front porch and outdoor space.

New carpeting and painting will be done at the Ewald Branch, along with the remodeling of the circulation and reference desks near the front entrance. The plan is to remove an interior wall to bring the two service desks closer together so staff can work more efficiently side by side. There also are plans to improve the acoustics throughout the building at the Ewald Branch.

Projects at the Woods Branch include improving the entrance lighting inside the library and updated stairwell safety. Additional space will be added for the adult collection and first-floor seating.

The total budget for the phase 1 improvements is $1.5 million; therefore, more projects will be scheduled at a later date. The improvements will be funded with capital reserves and donations.

According to the space needs and capital assessment documentation package, the total cost for improvements over the next 10 years is $10,128,551 and $11,893,183 with the critical needs.

In other news
This past summer, the Michigan One Room School Association, or MORSA, awarded the 2019 One Room SchoolHouse of the Year award to the Cook Schoolhouse.

On Aug. 3, a dedication of the new nine-hole miniature golf course was held at Lake Front Park, 23000 Jefferson Ave. in St Clair Shores. The new Kevin J. Zmyslowski III (Tripp) Memorial Course is a gift to the city from the Grosse Pointe Woods Foundation. The independent organization, designed to enhance the community for the benefit of residents, visitors and businesses, raised money for nearly three years to bring the mini-golf course to the park. Once the course opened, the city took ownership of it.

Grosse Pointe North High School sophomore Colin Jambekar made the course’s scorecard stands for his Boy Scouts of America Eagle Scout project. He had help from his grandfather and other members of his troop, which is No. 96 out of Grosse Pointe Memorial Church in Grosse Pointe Farms. Grosse Pointe Woods resident Rachelle Koester did the landscaping of the new mini-golf course by planting flowers and spreading mulch.