By Shelby Stewart
Brandon Twp.- On Monday night, the township board voted 5-2 to not move forward with negotiations on the purchase of the Belle Ann Elementary school building. Supervisor Kathy Thurman, Treasurer Terri Darnall, and Trustees Kris Kordella, Scott Broughton and Dana DePalma voted against negotiations while Clerk Candee Allen and Trustee Bob Marshall voted in favor of negotiations.
The township has been discussing moving to the building since October, along with moving the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Brandon substation, OTV and the Edna Burton Senior Center.
“I don’t have the stomach for it anymore,” said Kordella. “I say no, emphatically no.”
Key in their decision was costs. The building was offered to them for $500,000, and with renovations that needed to be done, the total for the project and the building would be about $1.8 million. In addition, both the Edna Burton Senior Center and the substation were purchased with the Community Development Block Grant funds. If those building were sold to help pay for the Belle Ann building—that would have to be paid back to the county and not toward the purchase.
“When you go down the hallway, it just started looking like a money pit. The building is old, the classrooms aren’t really set up for office space,” said Thurman.
The school has been closed since 2015, and was one of three school parcels for sale in the Brandon School Distirct. The Brandon Fletcher Intermediate School was sold earlier this year.
The Sherman Court property in Ortonville is still listed
Trustee Broughton said the numbers just are not there.
“This has been on our table since, is it fair to say since October? This is not a surprise, there has been a lot of talk,” said Broughton. “I’ve tried to keep an open mind, but we had our meeting last week, these numbers were officially presented to us and to the public, and at some point I have to take a stand and I’m doing it tonight. I am a no to this project.”
The money is available suggests Allen.
“No millage has been spoken of,” said Allen. “The cable renovations would be from the cable budget, as would the police. They have the money, we have the money. According to our auditor, we are sitting on over $2 million that is not earmarked for anything.”
Though the township will not be moving to the Belle Ann building, they will be looking into upgrades for the substation to meet their needs.
“That substation was too small the day we moved in,” said substation commander Lieutenant Greg Glover. “We don’t have showers in that building. Also, we are not equipped for female officers. We had to convert half of our mop closet into a locker room.”
Trustee Marshall said the need’s a need for improvements in township.
“The proposal in front of us is not to purchase the Belle Ann school. It is a proposal to approach the school board about an asking price that may be within our means,” said Marshall. “Opportunities do not arise at our front door when we are prepared for them. I think ignoring the potential offer in this moment is short sighted.”