ROSE TOWNSHIP, Michigan – The state’s recent declaration that Rose Township’s Mason Street office facility is in violation of both the American Disabilities Act Barrier Free requirement and the state of Michigan building codes has a few residents seeing red as township officials grapple with what to do next.
The issue was discussed by the Rose Township Board of Trustees during a special meeting held Oct. 27.
“There are some issues with the barrier-free access regulations by the state of Michigan that need to be met in our building at 9080 Mason St.,” said Supervisor Alison Kalcec. “In order to do those things that they have suggested, we’re going to have to make some decisions as a board on how we’re going to fund the issues we need to get compliance.”
Kalcec said the township has two options - either fixing the problems now and coming into full compliance, or to filing an Application of Exception with the Bureau of Barrier Free Design Board.
“My understanding from my conversations with the bureau is if the exception is granted – which they apparently routinely grant if you make a decent presentation – would give us a period of up to five years to bring that building into compliance,” Kalcec said.
After completing an Application for Exception, Kalcec said a hearing process would then begin. “We have to have a pre-hearing conference with some administrative personnel where you talk about what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it,” Kalcec said. Following that, she said an administrative hearing would occur whereby the pre-hearing board makes a recommendation to the actual board for approval or denial of the exception.
“That would at least buy us the time to get plans, bids and all types of information we need to move forward with this,” Kalcec said. “I don’t intend to draw it out for five years.”
Kalcec said the issue had caused her to look further into the township’s fund balance.
“I looked today at what our fund balance cash reserves are, and I talked to the auditors,” Kalcec said. “We have the option of designating money from that fund balance once we have an idea of what it’s going to cost,” she added. “Right now, we don’t even have a clue what these will cost, but we can designate money from our fund balance.”
Kalcec said the auditor had indicated that the township’s fund balance was healthy enough to support the needed repairs while still maintaining the necessary cash reserves to sustain the township over the next few years.
“It will change the cash reserves and we’ll have to be right on top of our budgets and living within our means very carefully, but I think that would be my recommendation that we take the cash reserve we have now and move forward with it immediately,” Kalcec said. “But we can’t comply in 10 days – it’s just not physically possible to do.”
Kalcec asked the board to authorize her to submit the Application for Exception to the state with the understanding that she would share it with board members before formally sending it out.
Treasurer Sue Slaughter asked Kalcec which employee would be assisting her in filling out the Application for Exception. Kalcec said she had discussed the matter with Building Official Dave Schang.
“I have concerns because all this time, the board has been assured that the building meets all codes – over and over we have asked,” Slaughter said. “There have been communications – I have a lot of paperwork supporting the question, ‘Does the current township hall meet code,’ and we have all been assured that it does.”
“And I believed it,” Kalcec said. “We thought we did.”
Slaughter said in answering the original complaint made in August, the Michigan Bureau of Codes was told by Rose Township officials that only 5 to 8 percent of the building had been remodeled. “Now anybody that looks at the building and who has half a sense knows more than 5 to 8 percent of that building has been remodeled,” Slaughter said. “In fact, they did find in their analysis that it says the alterations involved 50 percent or more of the floor area. I appreciate that you will show us the information, but we are not experts and I’m concerned about the information that’s being sent back and forth because I don’t’ think it’s accurate or truthful.”
Kalcec said it was her belief that remodeling didn’t equate to putting up partitions between offices. “What really triggered the violations was the change of use from what they called assembly to office, and they did make that determination that it was more than 50 percent.”
Kalcec said revisiting past mistakes will not solve the problem. “If there is somebody else you would like to have do this with me, I’m willing to work with whoever else the board wants,” Kalcec said. “I just want to be in the process because I think the board needs to be in on the process – I don’t want somebody who hasn’t been in on it from the beginning to do it.”
Slaughter wondered how the offices could have been opened in the first place with so many blatant violations. “We don’t have the RFPs back on the federal ADA laws and I think this is just the tip of the iceberg,” she said. “How could this have happened?”
“Well it did,” Kalcec replied. “I mean, it’s unfortunate, but it’s the past - it’s behind us and what we have to do is move forward and make it right.”
Slaughter said she felt there were other issues that still need to be addressed. “If our building inspector was the one that coordinated the building, permitted the building, inspected the building and told all us, along with our former supervisor – told us all that the building was 100 percent complaint and then we find out only because there was an accident there, that it’s not complaint at all – we’ve got other things to discuss.” Slaughter reiterated that the township still has yet to hear about the federal ADA compliancy.
“Some of my concerns are with the costs involved,” Slaughter said. “We’ve already got $425,000 or more into this building,” she said. “What if it’s – and this may be an exaggeration, but what it it’s a couple hundred thousand more to bring it into compliance – is it worth putting into that building?”
Kalcec said Slaughter’s point is exactly why she feels the need to move forward with the Application of Exception. “I think we need to get this exception so that we can make those kinds of policy decisions,” she said.
During public comment, Rose Township resident Robert Hauxwell expressed his anger over the township’s non-compliance issues.
“You only have one piece of the pie,” Hauxwell said. “The federal ADA decision is still out and somebody should be responsible for this,” he added. “This fell through the cracks and now the taxpayers are in some way going to get clipped by that – I’m not happy about it. It’s not right.”
Hauxwell urged Kalcec to allow taxpayers to have a voice in the decision, saying that funneling more money into an already over-priced building may not be a good idea. “Taxpayers should have a voice in the decision,” he said. “Why would I want to pour good money after bad?”
The board unanimously authorized Kalcec to submit an Application of Exception to the state.
On Wednesday, Kalcec spoke with the Bureau of Construction Codes who granted an extension of the 10 business day limitation, allowing Kalcec to complete the Application of Exception properly.