Acme OKs building purchase

Feb. 14—ACME — After years of considering the move, Acme Township is set to buy an office building near its current headquarters for its next township hall.

Township trustees voted unanimously on a resolution to purchase the current home of Ascomnorth and East Bay Medical, at 6100 U.S. 31 North and a few doors down from the hall where they met on Feb. 6. When the township closes on the property, it'll pay $695,000 to purchase it, plus closing costs.

Current township offices don't have the space to host early voting daily for nine days, said Acme Clerk Lisa Swanson said. Plus, there's nowhere secure to store the voting equipment. That's why Acme and East Bay townships agreed that East Bay would host early voting, a move that some township residents told Swanson was unfair.

But township employees are already working together in tight quarters, made more so when there are boxes of ballots and other materials to distribute in the clerk's office, Swanson said. Same goes for the planning department.

"There's one chair in there for people to come in, for people to sit down and ask their questions, or they can come out here, but if we've got a line in here waiting for things and they're trying to ask questions about planning and zoning, it's just so congested," she said.

The current hall's meeting room has a capacity of 44, a limitation that often forces the township to hold meetings elsewhere, Swanson said. She noted Grand Traverse Resort & Spa and Feast of Victory Lutheran Church have graciously offered space, but if a 45th person unexpectedly shows up at a township hall-hosted meeting, that could force its adjournment until a later date and venue where everyone could participate.

Plans are to keep several of the offices in the building as is, then turn much of one wing into a meeting space and community room, drawings show.

Trustee Jean Aukerman listed off possible uses, like a children's story time, kids movie night or a continuing education class by Northwestern Michigan College. The same possibilities don't exist at the current building, she said.

"And I think, who doesn't want possibilities? Who doesn't want to see this blossom into something that is a community for us? I just think it's amazing that this opportunity came to us when it did," she said.

Creating that missing community space was one possibility when the township weighed buying the former Bertha Vos Elementary School from Traverse City Area Public Schools. Trustees voted in November to end months of negotiations with the school district, and pursue the office building instead.

They agreed it was the right call after preliminary inspections raised questions about costly repairs and upgrades, with more likely needed. Trustee Dale Stevens said the building would have needed to be brought up to current codes after decades of having to comply with state Department of Education rules.

Acme Township would have needed tenants to make the Bertha Vos project work, tenants that would have been willing to share in building repair costs, Aukerman said. With no tenants lined up, and few nonprofit organizations looking to expand their physical footprint post-pandemic, that was too big of an unknown.

It'll take money to turn the office building into the next township hall, too. Estimates by Apex Engineering & Management figured the work could range from $290,000 to $350,000, not including optional upgrades ranging from a $6,000 sump pit upgrade to $80,000 for new ductwork and heating equipment in one wing of the building.

Those figures are based on a condition assessment of the buildings and its systems, including electrical and plumbing, Stevens said after the meeting.

Spicer Group would design, bid and administer the project for $21,995, according to a target figure from the firm.

Add to that the $2,300 the township paid to Gosling Czubak for an environmental assessment and $2,500 to Bob Mitchell & Associates for a property survey, documents show.

Trustees approved those two contracts in December, while township Supervisor Doug White said he pursued others, like one with Apex Engineering & Management, after trustees gave him the go-ahead to pursue due diligence for the property in November.

Other numbers aren't yet known, like the cost of property taxes for March through December. Township Assessor Amy Jenema told trustees the building won't be tax-exempt until 2025.

Past tax bills for the property totaled about $6,800, which will increase by about 5 percent this year but would be pro-rated from the closing date through Dec. 31, Jenema said later.

Closing costs could also vary, Stevens said.

While the seller agreed to pay some closing costs, like the transfer tax and title insurance costs, Acme agreed to pay others like the warranty deed recording fees, according to the purchase agreement. Both township and seller agreed to split whatever remaining costs are necessary to close the transaction.

Stevens expected the entire project to cost less than $1.5 million, which he called a bargain compared to rough estimates of $2 million or more for new construction to build an equivalent structure.

White said he wanted to consider using American Rescue Plan Act funds on the project.

Jenema replied Acme still has $282,000 of the $497,000 it received, but those funds come with conditions, so that possibility would need more discussion.

The township also has a general fund balance of $1.6 million in unrestricted funds, Jenema told trustees — she's also the township treasurer.

Closing is set for Feb. 29, White said.