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 The new Royal Oak City Hall building, located behind the Royal Oak Farmers Market, is slated to open to the public in August.

The new Royal Oak City Hall building, located behind the Royal Oak Farmers Market, is slated to open to the public in August.

Photo by Sarah Wojcik

New Royal Oak City Hall, Police Department projects delayed

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published June 23, 2020


ROYAL OAK — The first Royal Oak City Commission meeting to be held in the newly constructed City Hall building was supposed to be June 8.

However, that meeting came and went, conducted virtually as commissioners tuned in remotely from the safety of their homes — another of the lasting effects due to COVID-19.

While stay-at-home orders have been lifted, and restaurants, bars and retailers are beginning to reopen, government operations are still largely being conducted online, by mail and by drop box.

The new City Hall building is not slated to open to the public until August, and the new Police Department building is not slated to open to the public until the fall. No one from the city is working in the new buildings yet.

At press time, Royal Oak Community Engagement Specialist Judy Davids said that city staff members were working on protocols to safely reopen the current City Hall building to the public sometime in mid-June.

“We put sneeze guards up, and the new City Hall will have sneeze guards, too,” Davids said. “We’re going to have a scheduling system to go to City Hall.”

While residents could attempt to walk in to do business at City Hall, Davids highly recommended that they make an appointment due to building capacity limits.

“If they come and find a bunch of people are already waiting, they can’t wait inside the building. They’ll have to wait outside, and we’ll be screening people before they come in,” she said. “We are coming up with a plan now (for how staff will work in the building). The majority of us are working from home.”

The way many departments are currently organized is not conducive for 6-foot social distancing guidelines, so the city is currently working on how to configure departments and staffing levels. The city also recently accepted applications from staff for voluntary furlough, City Attorney David Gillam said.

Royal Oak Economic Development Manager Todd Fenton said the city’s construction projects fell within Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order that shut down construction across the state, so the city abided with the order until it was lifted several weeks ago.

“Shortly after she lifted that order, I think there was probably about a week’s delay between actually getting our projects up and running with what the staffing capacity was before the pandemic,” Fenton said. “As of right now, we have full staffing on our sites.”

The pandemic delayed construction by more than a month, he said.

“The earliest we could actually be in the (new City Hall building) is late July, but because of the upcoming (August primary) election, we can’t move technology out of the old building until the election is completed in mid-to-late August,” Fenton said.

Royal Oak Police Chief and Assistant City Manager Corrigan O’Donohue said the new Police Department has overcome many hurdles and roadblocks and that he is excited to move into the building, come September or October.

The current Police Department has old-fashioned sliding bars on its holding cells, an inefficient system of escorting prisoners in and out of the building, and outdated technology and offices. In a future phase of construction, a bridge will connect the Police Department to the 44th District Court.

Despite the setbacks, O’Donohue said the new department will serve the city for 50-60 years.

Fenton said the city is currently tabulating costs incurred due to the construction delay and the months-long shutdown but that it is too early to give an accurate estimate.

“I hope to have some numbers later this month. (The pandemic) touched not only a lot of different trades and work, but we’re also still identifying supply chain issues with materials not able to arrive on time,” he said. “We expect there will be increased costs, but we’re not anticipating a cost that would keep the projects from being completed.”