County will ask voters’ approval of major courthouse expansion project

By: 
Paul Garrod

PAW PAW - Van Buren County voters will be asked next May to support a 20-year millage request of .70 mills that will be used for a new court addition, jail addition and renovation, remodeling of the Annex Building at the Van Buren County Courthouse, and renovation of the Administration and Land Services Building.

Voters will be asked May 2 to approve a 60,000-square-foot court addition, in addition to the other three projects.

 

Van Buren County Commissioners approved the resolution at their Nov. 22 meeting.

Last June, commissioners approved contracting with Kalamazoo-based architectural firm DLZ to draw up bid plans for the jail expansion and conceptual plans for new court office space. The plans will cost approximately $483,000 for the jail and $450,000 for the courts.

In June, Commissioner John “Mike” Henry told fellow commissioners, “We need to complete and commit to what we are going to do. These facilities are despicable. There’s no question about it.”

Henry said, “We’ve talked about it, talked about it, talked about it. I don’t know what else to say.”

He said the facility is outdated. “It was a great facility in 1923. Is that our standard today?”

The plan is projected to cost approximately $35 million, and calls for three annexes.

One annex would go on the north end of the jail for booking, housing, a day room, medical, offices and storage. An east addition would be for a receiving building and kitchen.

The former sheriff’s residence, located on the south end of the complex, would be removed to make way for a proposed Van Buren County court expansion project.

In March, Van Buren County Sheriff Dale Gribler said his department is happy with a design project proposed by DLZ of Michigan, who has researched and estimated costs for new office, jail and court space. At that time, the project was estimated between $14 and $16 million.

Gribler said at that time, the sheriff’s office is in need of more space for booking (intake area) approximately 4,500 individuals per year. Currently, the area is inadequate for gender separation, individuals with special needs or mental health issues, and liability issues, according to Gribler. The intake area is critical for the first 48 hours, according to Gribler.

The former sheriff’s residence currently houses 48 inmates, as well as a crime lab, the county’s Homeland Security, Van Buren County Sheriff’s Reserves, Sheriff’s Office Marine, ORV and Snowmobile divisions, and Victim Services Unit.

With the proposed removal of the former sheriff’s residence, those departments and divisions would move to the Van Buren County Health Department, located on County Road 681, in Hartford Township. That site is planned to be vacated by the Health Department as it moves to a new location in the Village of Lawrence, where it will partner with the Van Buren Intermediate School District to build a new site at the VBISD Technology Center.

The Mental Health Department would remain at its current location.

Gribler also said five sheriff’s office substations would be consolidated and centrally located.

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The Courier-Leader & Paw Paw Flashes

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32280 E. Red Arrow Hwy. • P.O. Box 129
Paw Paw, MI 49079
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