Millage to fund new Crawford County Commission on Aging and Grayling Senior Center building will be before voters this winter
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
With a few adjustments, a millage planned to fund a new location for the Crawford County Commission on Aging (COA) and Grayling Senior Center will go before voters to decide.
The COA Board of Directors at a meeting on Tuesday, December 17, approved terms to enter into a purchase agreement for the former Mayday Windows Building, located at 4388 M-72 West, as a new location for the agency.
The purchase is contingent on passing a $3 million millage to buy the building, pay for renovations, and to build an addition to provide more room for services. The millage will be on the Tuesday, March 10 presidential election ballot.
“If the millage passes, then we own building,” said COA Director Alice Snyder. “If the millage doesn’t pass, the purchase agreement falls through and we let the building go.”
A $428,000 loan had been secured from the USDA Rural Development to purchase the building as well as a wooded lot located east of the building. A separate loan of over $1.7 million was also secured to renovate the building.
In earlier November, bond counsel informed county officials that they could not legally issue bonds to pay off other bonds to pay off the loans, unless there was going to be a significant saving for taxpayers.
That wasn’t going to the case in this situation.
As a result, county officials have declined the use of the USDA loans, which would have been used to buy the building now, then ask for the millage, and used those funds to pay off the loans if approved by voters.
“That was the sticking point,” Snyder said.
The COA was put in a situation where it could not make the annual loan payment and still pay operating costs to provide services to older adults.
Also, if the millage was not approved, the COA would have been faced with selling the building.
“There was risk there with how long we would have that building and how long it would take to sell it and how long we would be making payments on it until we got it sold,” Snyder said.
On Monday, December 9, Mark and DeAnne Swiercz, the owners of the Mayday Windows building, came back to the county saying they were willing to wait until the March 10 election to see if voters approve the millage. Another offer to purchase the building fell through.
The Crawford County Board of Commissioners on Thursday, December 12, approved the ballot language for the millage to purchase, renovate, and add on to the building.
A total of .3171 mills would be collected over 20 years for the project.
“It’s a voter approved millage,” Snyder said.
As a result of entering into the new purchase agreement, the owners of Mayday Windows will receive a $15,000 escrow or down payment before the March 10 election.
“If the voters turn it down, then the sellers get the escrow money for the down payment and they walk away,” said Crawford County Administrator Paul Compo. “If the voters approve, it comes off the closing price.”
The downpayment will come form $148,000 the COA has in its building budget.
Compo said removing all the hoops county officials would have to jump through by declining the USDA loans simplifies the process.
“It really makes it cleaner,” he said. “It’s up to the voters now.”
Snyder and COA officials are pleased that everything fell into place in hopes of ending a decade a half search location for the agency.
“We’re ecstatic,” she said. “We feel like it’s meant to be.”
The Mayday Windows building is 20 years old and has 12,000 square feet, double the space of the existing center, which is 5,500 square feet.
The COA has rented that space from the Grayling Housing Commission since 1973, the year the COA was founded.
COA staff are cramped in tight office space now, and there is no more space to bring on new staff to serve seniors.
There also is only one room where staff can meet with seniors regarding services such as Medicare insurance counseling to ensure their privacy.
The recreation room is too small to take in the amount of senior citizens who are coming in for fitness classes the COA is hosting.
The dining area is often booked, requiring other classes to be held off site.
There is also a lack of parking space for the safety of senior citizens on the well-traveled Lawndale Street from people going to surrounding apartment complexes.
Compo hopes that Crawford County voters will study the needs of the COA and the funding proposal for the project.
“It’s something that we’ve needed for a long time, and it’s something I think the Commission on Aging deserves,” Compo said. “I think they have done a good job with the resources they have to try to help out people, and I think this will help them do more. I hope it goes through, because I think the voters’ trust will be well placed with the COA and that administration. I think they’ll do a good job with it.”