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Council approves changes in senior center building

ISHPEMING — A fire suppression system will be included in the Ishpeming Senior Center facility currently under construction on Greenwood Street.

After some discussion on Wednesday, the council unanimously approved the $48,000 project to install a wet pipe fire sprinkler system in the structure. The unbudgeted cost will be funded, in part, with a $26,000 annual net asset distribution from the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority. The remaining $22,000 would be funded with $21,000 in previously budgeted site-plan-review funds and up to $1,000 from the city’s general fund balance.

The initial classification on the building permit for the structure did not require the fire suppression system to be installed, Ishpeming City Manager Craig Cugini said, which accounts for the unplanned but necessary expense.

“There is no requirement by permit, they could actually occupy that building without a fire suppression system,” Cugini said. “(But) the city owns the facility… and I personally would have concerns that a senior center that the city owns would not have a fire suppression system.”

Mayor Mike Tonkin said he understood the need for the system, but questioned the need for city dollars to fund it.

“I remember going into this, the city was not going to invest city money in the project,” Tonkin said. “We had to make major cutbacks to make this happen. So hopefully the senior people realize, that as the people who started this, that they were going to be responsible for … anything else that pops up.”

Tonkin also expressed concern about adding an expense so early in the project.

“I don’t see a problem with this, but this project has just started, what else is coming down the road?” he said.

Cugini said the fire suppression system is the only added expense that has been found in preparation for the construction project.

“That’s (the fire suppression system is) the only thing that came out of the site plan review that seemed like a miss. I think so far we are on a positive track with the senior center, not a negative track,” Cugini said. “I have seen very quickly things can turn negative on a project. They were planning to connect to the sewer system, which we thought ended in the road. But we found out it was not in the road right of way, which means we do not have to dig into the road and repave the road.”

The city plans to apply for a Risk Avoidance Program grant from MMRMA to offset the cost of the fire suppression system installation, according to agenda supplements provided by city staff.

The construction project will be funded by a $1.9 million Community Development Block Grant administrated by the Michigan Strategic Fund and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, which was awarded to the city in May.

The 10% match will be provided by the Ishpeming Area Commission on the Aging. The city will own the new structure and lease it to the organization for $1 per year.

The project cost includes demolishing the former senior center facility at 320 S. Pine St., which was condemned in September. The senior center has been leasing space in the Phelps Square on Third Street since moving from the old facility.

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