Woods City Hall still undergoing renovations after flood

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published August 6, 2019

GROSSE POINTE WOODS — The renovations at Grosse Pointe Woods City Hall after a flood in March are taking much longer than anticipated, but city officials hope the project will be completed in late 2019 or early 2020.

An improperly fastened joint of two water pipes —  part of heating and cooling system renovations occurring at the time — caused the flooding in the early morning hours of March 3. A public safety officer making rounds noticed the flooding.

The business office of City Hall flooded with an inch of water on the floor. 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.

When the flood occurred, 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.

“The leak occurred on a weekend and had time to do extensive damage before it was discovered,” Smith said in an email. “The first thing we had to do once the water was turned off and the leak repaired was to have a company do a survey for asbestos. Asbestos was found in the glue pods that held the ceiling tiles in place. It was also found in some of the insulating materials around plumbing.”

According to Smith, the removal of asbestos requires specialized treatment from licensed companies under the direct control of the state of Michigan. A permit must be issued by the state before any abatement work can begin.  

After receiving approval from the state, the first round of abatement took about six weeks to complete. Afterward, a company removed damaged drywall to open up any concealed spaces. During the process, more suspected asbestos was discovered that had to be removed. Taking care of the asbestos problem caused a significant delay in the cleanup.

“Had this been nothing more than a simple flood, repairs and restoration would have been completed in a more timely fashion, but when asbestos was discovered, the entire scope of the project changed,” Smith said. “We have to ensure that City Hall is a safe place for our employees and residents to work and conduct business in.”

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. Since the flooding, City Hall employees temporarily moved their offices into the community center.

“The employees seem to be functioning well,” Grosse Pointe Woods Mayor Robert Novitke said. “Everybody is making sure the job is getting done. I haven’t heard of any difficulties.”

When the decision was made to move City Hall operations into the community center, it meant the cancellation of rental activities and the relocation of the classes held there.  

“Our neighboring cities helped ensure that no one had a planned event canceled by sharing their facilities,” Smith said. “Our IT (Information Technology) Department has had an especially challenging task in restoring IT access into a room that was not designed nor equipped for such specialization. This challenge was met by the employees’ group effort to help our IT director, Gary Capps, restore service inside of a week.”

As city officials deal with the flood’s aftermath, a group of employees has worked with an architect to review City Hall’s current floor plan to determine if any changes would better service residents.

Smith said an improved floor plan was developed, reviewed by the City Council and approved for further design. The documents and plans necessary to bid out the reconstruction work are being prepared, and the project should be going out for bid within the next four to six weeks. Once the bids are received and reviewed, a contractor will be able to begin construction.  

Ceilings, walls, lighting, electrical, flooring, cubicle walls and furniture affected by the flood will need to be replaced.

“Finishes such as paint and carpeting have also been selected to make City Hall a modern office space,” Smith said. “Plans are to make some changes to the office area, which will result in a smoother workflow and a more efficient use of space. It is also important to keep in mind that the cost for all this work and renovation is coming from our insurance company, who will then seek restitution from the contractor responsible for the original flood damages.”