It appears Oxford Community Television (OCTV) might be one step closer to potentially having station space that it owns as opposed to rents.
Last week, the Oxford Area Cable Communications Commission voted 5-0 to obtain from Lake Orion architect Steve Auger an estimate as to how much it would cost to design and construct a new station in Seymour Lake Township Park in Oxford.
“I feel uncomfortable just voting for a guess,” said Commission Chair Sue Bossardet, president of the Oxford Village Council. “I would rather see some firm numbers because we’ve only got $300,000 (to spend) as far as I’m concerned.”
Back in March, Ron Davis, director of the Oxford Township Parks and Recreation Department, approached the cable commission and offered to provide, at no cost, land on which to build a new station.
Davis envisions the station being an addition to the new parks/rec. administrative offices and multi-purpose community room that was just built and the senior activities room which the department is planning to construct once a funding source has been determined and secured.
The cable commission has been investigating its options for a new station for a while now.
OCTV has money saved for a new home. Although their fund balance (or reserves) is approximately $450,000, cable commissioners say only $300,000 is earmarked for a new station.
Since 2005, OCTV has been housed at 1775 N. Lapeer Rd. in Oxford Twp. It rents the commercial space for $2,000 per month and the lease is set to expire in February 2019.
Commissioners have narrowed the options to either constructing and owning a brand new facility in Seymour Lake Park or renovating and leasing one of two available spaces inside the 50-year-old Oxford Village municipal complex on W. Burdick St.
Although they don’t serve on the cable commission, Addison Township Supervisor Bruce Pearson and Leonard Village President Mike McDonald attended the meeting as audience members and voiced their support for the Seymour Lake Park option.
“My opinion is if you’re going to spend that money, then you might as well build a new building that fits the need(s) of exactly what (the OCTV staff is) asking for,” Pearson said. “Otherwise, I think we’re just fixing up somebody else’s building.”
According to estimates compiled by Commissioner Lori Fisher, treasurer of Addison Township, it could cost $10,000 to $20,000 to renovate the space in the village complex that housed the parks and rec. administrative offices from 2002-17.
Fisher estimated it could cost $150,000 to renovate the portion of the village complex that served as the township hall until 2006 and has sat vacant ever since. Her report stated this space would require “major renovation,” including a new roof, heating, air conditioning, some interior restructuring, bathrooms, ceiling and flooring.
Pearson asked why this space is in such a state of “disrepair.”
Referring to the old Addison Township Hall, the supervisor said, “I know why our building got so bad . . . nobody put any money into it. They let the roof go to pot and then after that, everything else went to pot.”
Speaking for himself, not Leonard’s council, McDonald admitted he was “heavily cynical” about the Seymour Lake Park option when he first heard about it. He said even though the park gets a lot of traffic, “it’s very focused” and “basically, related to sports.”
“It’s not on M-24. It’s not on Burdick St,” said McDonald, both of which experience a heavy daily flow of general traffic.
That being said, McDonald finds the village options “worrisome” because “there do seem to be some unknowns” with regard to the future of the municipal complex.
In the November 2012 election, village residents voted to give council the authority to sell the building and the land it occupies, if it so chooses.
McDonald also believes that after seeing what Addison Township was able to accomplish with the construction of its new hall, which opened last year, “the outcome (for OCTV) would be probably more favorable with a new structure.”
“Much as (the park location) is out of the way for the communities that are out to the east, the benefits probably outweigh the negatives,” he said.
The cable commission received estimates compiled by Fisher that showed how much a new station could cost if it were built at the per-square-foot prices of $150, $200 and $250.
Those estimates ranged from $300,000 for 2,000 square feet on the low side to $750,000 for 3,000 square feet on the high side.
But Davis insisted it could be done for much less. He said the parks and rec. department served as its own general contractor, worked closely with local contractors and was able to convert an existing maintenance facility that was stripped down to stud walls into new administrative offices with a community room for $90 per square foot.
“We didn’t put frills in. We want(ed) functionality and that’s what we (got),” Davis said. “Are you willing to act as the general contractor for this?” asked Commissioner Ed Hunwick, who represents Oxford Township.
“If it saves me, the taxpayer, money, I would jump in. Yeah,” Davis replied. “So, what you’re saying is that if we say the maximum amount we want to spend is $300,000, you’ll make sure it comes in at that (price) or under?” Bossardet asked.
Davis responded that he’d meet with local contractors, explain to them what the budget is, then ask “what can we do to make this work?”
“That’s basically what we did with ours,” he said.
Park Superintendent Jeff Kinasz explained to commissioners when the new administrative offices and community room were built, the electrical, septic and well (water) systems were all expanded so they would be able to “handle” what’s there, plus the future senior activities room and possibly, the OCTV station.
For example, Kinasz said, “We had 200 amps (of electricity) coming into the building before. We now have 800 (amps).”
“We’ve upgraded everything to accommodate future expansions,” Kinasz said. “Everything is in place to do these things if they happen.”
“We’ve spent an extra $38,000 making these upgrades,” added Davis.
Kinasz noted if they had waited and made these same upgrades later on, “it would have cost us about three times as much to do it.”
There was some question as to what would happen if a new station was built and then, at some point in the future, OCTV ceased to exist for whatever reason.
Commissioner Bill Dunn, supervisor of Oxford Township, said if that were to happen, the building could be sold and the proceeds divided between the four communities that fund OCTV – Oxford Township, Oxford Village, Addison Township and Leonard Village – based on how much they each contribute.
Davis indicated it could be included in the deed that the parks and rec. department be given the opportunity to purchase the station building for whatever the cable commission paid to construct it.
Fisher admitted, “I do like the Seymour (Lake) Park location,” but she cautioned her fellow commissioners that “it’s very important that everybody understands the financials” before making any spending decisions.
“I don’t want to get five or 10 years down the road and start seeing some of these declining budgets catching up with us and then, (we) have to make some decisions that impact the (OCTV) staff,” she said.
Fisher believes the commission should “be careful that we don’t build some empire that we can’t sustain.”
“Currently, we are not putting money in the bank at the end of the year,” she noted. “We’re spending everything that we are bringing in.”