Ferndale’s resident-led task force visited every city facility to evaluate its condition, including Fire Station 1 at 1635 Livernois St.

Ferndale’s resident-led task force visited every city facility to evaluate its condition, including Fire Station 1 at 1635 Livernois St.

Photo provided by the city of Ferndale

Resident task force delivers report on city facilities, recommendations

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published November 9, 2022

FERNDALE — On Oct. 17, the Ferndale City Council held a special meeting to hear the results of a resident-led facilities task force.

Earlier this year, the task force was commissioned to review the state of facilities in Ferndale and deliver recommendations on how the city should move forward in terms of capital investment and infrastructure. The nine-person task force spent the year meeting together and touring city facilities, all of which led to the final report at the meeting.

Chair Donnie Johnson said the task force got to see internal workings of the city government in terms of its buildings and vehicles, which residents don’t normally get to see.

According to Johnson, as the task force members were going through the buildings, they realized that many of Ferndale’s assets were close to “the point of not being there when we need them.”

“Our goal, as always through this process … was to have an objective of minimizing the annual cost burden on the taxpayers of Ferndale,” he said. “As Ferndale taxpayers ourselves, we’re very keenly aware of what we may be asking for when we make these recommendations, and so with that in mind, we looked through a lot of possible solutions to arrive at the solutions that we did. I want to assure my fellow residents that there was no castle-building, there was no glory projects; these are bread and butter, and most of them are not sexy. You will not see a shiny and glorious impact with a lot of these projects, but you will feel the improvement on your services.”

The task force looked at each facility with four categories in mind: whether to maintain and invest in the current facilities; to disinvest, divert or deprioritize improvements due to obsolescence and financial barriers; to pursue new facility construction and consolidation or the expansion of existing buildings; or to pursue facility consolidation or relocation through a millage, bond issuance or public-private partnership.

Johnson said a priority should be put on public safety facilities, stating that both fire stations are in dire conditions.

“In both instances, firefighters are living and sleeping in quarters that are above the vehicle bays, which means that as fire engines are idling and as equipment comes back from fire, they are almost constantly exposed to emissions and other carcinogens,” he said. “This is not best practice, both nationally and internationally. It is not good from an equity standpoint. We should not expect our firefighters to live in those conditions. These facilities are old, they are outdated, they are fundamentally broken.”

As part of a phase one set of recommendations, the task force recommended a site expansion for Fire Station 1 at 1635 Livernois St., where there will be  an extended fire station that separates living quarters and administrative offices from the vehicle emissions in the motor vehicle base. The Historical Society inside would be relocated to an undetermined space. For Fire Station 2 at 1070 E. Nine Mile Road, it’s recommended that the fire station, Police Department, dispatch and fire command center be consolidated into a newly constructed facility at the station’s site.

Another topic of discussion was City Hall at 300 E. Nine Mile and the Kulick Community Center at 1201 Livernois. The task force recommended that City Hall and the Community Center’s office and public meeting spaces should be consolidated into a new construction space on the top two floors of The dot.

These recommendations would happen as part of phase two, as Johnson said that, while important, they can wait a bit longer as they’re not as high of a priority as the first phase of items.

“(City Hall) is in pretty bad shape when you go behind the walls, when you look at the pipes, when you look at the electrical, when you look at the HVAC,” he said. “There have been numerous floods in this building, backups in the sewer lines. Not ideal for a city hall; not ideal for anywhere where people work. Additionally, City Hall is about 7,000 square feet smaller than it needs to be, based on the government services that need to be delivered out of City Hall.”

In relocating to the top of The dot, Johnson said the building is in a centralized location and the city has a development agreement to have that space built out. He stated that what Ferndale does not have are large parcels of land in which to build a brand new facility from the ground up.

“We determined that we have a location, a building, a structure that is already prepared to take additional construction to add floors, and that’s The dot,” he said.

Along with the Community Center space at The dot, the task force recommended a Martin Road Park concession building, which would be an indoor/outdoor recreation facility that would include public restrooms, an athletic equipment rental area, a multipurpose room, a concession stand, a staff office and storage space. This would occur in phase one.

“So really you’re getting two community spaces, not for the price of one, but you’re still getting two,” he said.

The council shared its appreciation of the task force’s work and efforts, as well as giving the city a framework going forward with its facilities.

City Councilwoman Raylon Leaks-May did have questions in regard to City Hall and what would become of its current location at 300 E. Nine Mile.

“I don’t think I was clear as to what would happen with City Hall possibly with these recommendations of relocation and things like that to The dot,” she said.

Johnson said the disposition of it would be the prerogative of the council.

“This being a highly desirable parcel on Nine Mile right off Woodward, we would probably recommend what we would call a higher and better use of this parcel for some sort of development opportunity,” he said.

Mayor Pro Tem Kat Bruner James said that as the council goes through this next process and figures out the order of operations, the city needs to do some extensive microlocal community engagement when it comes to deciding how any particular facility is going to change and what construction is going to be like so that residents and commercial and public entity neighbors have their voices heard.

“I’ll also add that moving forward, since this is such a long process — some of us might be around when these decisions are made, some of us might not — this gives us a really good starting point,” she said. “I would hope that to the extent that something different could happen than what’s been laid out here, that it’s based on a lot of engagement and a lot of information, because, to culminate with this report, (the task force’s) work was such a huge lift. … There would have to be some, I think, significant new information or changes to deviate significantly from it, but naturally some of these projects are going to look different than these recommendations. But it’s a great starting point.”

To see all the recommendations and  the presentation by the facilities task force, including more information on other facilities, visit www.ferndalemi.gov/news/resident-led-facilities-task-force-report-presented-received-by-city-council and the city’s YouTube page for the Oct. 17 meeting.