BLISSFIELD - Administrators have chosen an architect to design Blissfield's new village hall, and begin meeting this week to refine its plans.
The village solicited nearly 45 architectural firms, and received 15 plans.
"I was happy with 15," village administrator Jim Wonacott said. After considering the proposals, he contacted the five firms with what he considered the best plans, gave them a stipend of $3,000 each, and asked them to do a presentation for village officials. Two other competitors also did presentations on their own dime, he added.
The winner was George Hartman Architects of Bloomfield Hills.
"Based on what they presented, they listened best to what our problems were and went the furthest to solve them," Mr, Wonacott said. "They were the one that 'got it' the most."
One of those problems is the site for the new hall. Its back is adjacent to a flood plain. And the site is small, which sparked parking concerns. The plan covers both issues, he said.
An issue with the town's current hall, which Mr. Wonacott calls "a concrete bunker with windows," is its lack of accessibility for the handicapped or disabled. No one has filed a complaint about it, but village leaders want to comply with the federal Americans With Disabilities Act, especially as the population ages.
"With the Baby Boomers starting to retire this year, we aren't getting any younger, and older people have more mobility impairments," Mr. Wonacott said. "They can have trouble getting around."
The old building, which has 3,800 square feet, has a leaky garage roof and inadequate storage space, especially since the expansion of the police department in recent years, Mr. Wonacott said. Additionally, council has no place to meet in that building.
The village has already purchased property for a new hall, near the entrance to Ellis Park downtown, and has demolished the structures that stood on them.
Construction of the new hall, which should have between 9,000 and 9,500 square feet should begin this summer. Officials and the architect meet this week " to begin the process to hone the plan and turn it into construction documents," he said. "If everything goes like we'd like it to, we hope to put the project to bid by May, June. Construction would start in early to mid-July. We've got quite a bit of to do before then.
The new building will house the village's administrative offices, council chambers, and police department.
The idea for the new hall came from the Hyett-Palma report, which the village commissioned in 2001 to guide the village toward a comprehensive plan to maintain and improve the success of the U.S. 223 corridor.
Among its recommendations was moving the village office downtown, to spark visits to other businesses in the district. Financing would be based on the issuance of capital improvement bonds, if residents approve it. The village will sell its current home once it moves to the new building.
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