Officials pose questions on COA rehabilitation project in Marion

REED CITY — A $304,000 bid received for the planned rehabilitation project at a senior meal and activity site in Marion left Osceola County officials with many questions and concerns during their Committee of the Whole meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 5.

COA Director Scott Schryer and Landmark Design’s Bob Van Putten presented the bids received for rehabilitation work on the building in Marion, including two handicap accessible restrooms, two HVAC units and new electrical service for the kitchen. They also requested bidders to quote a movable wall and fixing the building’s roof. The lowest bid belonged to Steve Jones Construction of Big Rapids.

The project, Schryer told officials, would help fix the building for seniors in Marion to activities and meals. Currently, the Marion Eagles are donating a room to accommodate the seniors.

“When I came on board, we were going to do big things,” he said. “We had no footprint in Marion and now we do. We know that corner of the county wants the activities from their feedback.”

Schryer said the COA budget has a little more than $400,000, and could cover the cost of the project, but would leave them with less than he would like, though there are grants available to help offset some of the cost. It wasn’t readily available which grants could be applied for or the criteria to meet for others.

“Providing services is not an issue,” said commission chair Larry Emig. “We have improved our presence there. I don’t think we would argue against having our own facility.

“The issue is the cost. It’s not an issue that we have the money or we don’t have the money. We have the money. It’s in your budget because it’s been saved as a result of being good stewards with the money. The issue is the money, and where you spend it. Are there other options less costly?”

The idea of constructing a new building, rather than fixing up an older one, also was discussed.

“It’s unfortunate that we originally projected the cost at $100,000 to $150,000,” said commissioner Mark Gregory. “We can’t do what we thought we could do and do what we wanted. With the initial investment, what we paid for the building and remodeling it? We are not going to build a building that size for that amount of money.”

Commissioners Alan Tiedt and Pam Wayne expressed concerns about spending that amount of money in Marion, noting such an investment there could delay anything happening in Reed City, where there is a larger population who would utilize a site.

“How do you think the Reed City area is going to respond?” Tiedt asked Schryer. “You’ll be taking almost all of your fund there, while the bigger number of people are in Reed City and more would use a place there.”

Shryer said a plan for a Reed City site is still in place, saying that it a different project.

Wayne said she was concerned about the immediacy of the project now, because it first was brought to officials as a project with multiple phases.

“We thought it was going to be a project that was going to be done over some years,” she said. “Now we have to have something immediately.

“There are taxpayers in this county that don’t think spending $300,000 in Marion is a good idea. It seems to happen all the time. We’re given information and make decisions based on that information and then the information changes.”

Gregory and County Coordinator Sue Vander Pol noted a project with phases would, in the long run, end up costing more as the cost of materials will continue to rise in the coming years.

No action was taken by the committee, as the bids still will be good for its next meeting. However, officials asked Schryer to seek more information about grants available for the project.

The next Osceola County Committee of the Whole meeting is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 18.