Traverse City News and Events

New Fire Station, More Projects On Peninsula Township Docket

By Beth Milligan | July 7, 2020

A number of developments are slated to come before Peninsula Township officials this month, including a new township fire station projected to cost just over $1 million – more than $200,000 over budget. However, the station will significantly reduce response times to fire and medical emergencies and lower homeowners’ insurance rates on the peninsula’s north end.

Township trustees will hold a special meeting tonight (Tuesday) at 7pm to review construction bids and potentially pick a firm to build the new fire station on vacant land at 19270 Center Road between Swaney and Tompkins roads (pictured). Peninsula Township purchased the 2.35-acre site in 2019 for $42,300. Chief Fred Gilstorff previously told The Ticker the new station – which will be able to house two full-time firefighters and equipment – is crucial to providing life-saving medical and firefighting response times to northern residents, who also face high insurance premiums because of their distance from the township’s existing stations. Station 1 is located in Mapleton in the center of the peninsula, while Station 2 is near Mari Vineyards towards the peninsula’s base.

Five companies bid for the right to construct Station 3, which had an original engineering estimate of $780,000. The lowest bid was submitted by GT Construction for $1,040,000, with other bids coming in as high as $1.26 million. Gourdie-Fraser/GFA, which provides engineering services for Peninsula Township, wrote in a memo to trustees that the firm reviewed the bids and spoke to bidders to “better understand the purpose for disparity” between the original estimate and the bids. “Varying responses were provided, but the majority of reasoning for the higher prices were related to uncertainties with the COVID-19 pandemic (limited materials and higher prices) and contractor backlog,” GFA wrote.

GFA is recommending moving ahead with GT Construction, not only as the low bidder but as a local company with favorable references and extensive experience with similar projects. GFA also said GT Construction was willing to work with the township to “value engineer this project and reduce costs.” Township Supervisor Rob Manigold says that despite the higher cost, he believes board members will support moving forward with the project through GT Construction.

“I think we're all committed to moving forward,” he says. “The big component is getting a third fire station at the north end to achieve a quicker response to medical or fire calls so we are responding equally to everyone on the peninsula. All the other townships have neighboring townships that can help respond to calls, but out here there’s only one way up or down.”

Manigold says the township has approximately $1.6 million in a cell tower enterprise fund available for projects, but notes there are competing demands for those funds, including park improvements and cemetery upgrades. “I think what the board will probably be looking at (for the fire station) is borrowing the money through a mortgage with a local bank and then using the proceeds from the enterprise fund to pay it back,” he says. If board members approve contracting with GT Construction tonight, Manigold says they will likely meet again this summer to approve a funding plan, with construction potentially starting later this summer or early fall.

Other Peninsula Township residents could also see their insurance premiums decrease thanks to various improvements made by Gilstorff’s department, with a new Insurance Services Office (ISO) report upgrading the township’s score in some areas. ISO provides scores on a 1-10 scale to insurance companies to set their fire insurance rates, with 1 being the best and 10 being the worst. Previously, the township was rated a 5 in its southern end, a 7 in its middle section, and a 10 for the northern tip of Old Mission – the worst possible rating. But effective August 1, the new ISO report rates the southern end as a 3 and the middle of the township as a 5, while the north remains a 10.

“Once Station Three is built, that area should drop to a 5 as well,” Gilstorff wrote in a memo to trustees. “This is a great improvement for our fire department and should lower many residents’ insurance cost.” The fire chief added that “while this score is good, there are still many areas to improve ourselves and our fire department is dedicated to do this.”

Several other projects are also slated to come before Peninsula Township officials this month. On July 14 at 7pm, the township board will review a request to designate Hawthorne Vineyards as a Winery-Chateau. The change would “allow for more events at the site,” according to township documents, with a 40x60-foot outdoor pavilion planned for future construction.

On July 20 at 7pm, the township planning commission will hold a public hearing on a new planned development called Bella Vue a quarter mile north of the Center Road and Bluff Road intersection. Project plans call for using a planned unit development (PUD) – a zoning plan tailored to a specific property – to create six residential lots with access from a private road that would be constructed off of Center Road. The total project site is 4.25 acres. Township Planner Randy Mielnik says the project density and the steep topography of the site will likely be issues planning commissioners will need to address with developers before moving forward.

Also at the July 20 meeting, planning commissioners will review a request from the developers of Peninsula Shores – formerly The 81 on East Bay – to amend their project plans, relocating one lot from the southern end of the development to the northern end. That request will likely be a controversial one, according to Mielnik, as it came before township officials in the past and was pulled after neighbors expressed concerns about viewsheds being impacted. Developers submitted their special use permit application without the lot change in order to get approval to move ahead with the development, but are now pursuing the change as a separate amendment, which will allow township planning commissioners to vote just on that specific request.

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