After years of waiting, planning and hoping, the Oxford Twp. Parks and Recreation Department is going to have a permanent place to hang its hat in just a matter of weeks.
No more landlords. No more rent checks. No more sharing space with other governmental entities. No more worrying about having to leave if the building is sold.
“It is exciting to come in here and know that we’ve finally got a home – a place that’s ours,” said Parks and Rec. Director Ron Davis.
Work on the department’s new administrative offices in Seymour Lake Township Park is in the homestretch.
“Our goal is to be in Aug. 7,” said Davis as he gave this reporter a tour of the facility on July 7. “Drywall is done. We should be painting next week. Heating and cooling is done. Floor covering (will be done) in probably two or three weeks.”
Since May, a whole host of contractors from in and around Oxford have been busy as bees transforming the park’s former maintenance facility into the department’s new office space.
The two-story west side of the building contains approximately 2,500 square feet of space. The first floor has a reception area and individual offices for the recreation specialist (Dawn Medici) and two recreation supervisors (Lauren Jacobsen and Dan Sullivan). Davis’ office is on the second floor adjacent to a conference room and storage space.
Furnishing the new offices won’t be a problem, nor will it be costly.
“All the furniture we got to equip this place has pretty much been donated,” said Davis, noting this resulted in a “pretty substantial” savings.
Having the offices located in the most heavily-used township park will increase the department’s visibility and make it more accessible to the public, according to Davis.
Since 2002, the department has been leasing office space inside Oxford Village’s municipal complex on W. Burdick St. Prior to that, parks and rec. rented space inside the Oxford Public Library on Pontiac Rd.
Having the administrative offices and maintenance facility – a new one was built on the park’s southeast side – finally situated on the same site will eliminate travel time when staff members need to meet, which is frequently.
“I spent a lot of time coming out here,” Davis said.
The building’s east side is more than 2,000 square feet and contains restroom facilities and a multi-purpose room that will be able to fulfill so many needs for both the department and the public.
“We’ll run every kind of program (in here), from dance to Tai Chi (to) coaches meetings,” said Davis as his deep voice echoed through the spacious empty room. “You name it, we’ll do it in here – painting, art, we’ll have some special events in here like afternoon movies (for) moms and daughters.
“It will (also) give us an opportunity to bring some of the programs back. We’ll do (classes for) hunter safety, boater safety, snowmobile (safety). We had to cut those out because we didn’t have the room to do it (after the Oxford Veterans Memorial Civic Center was sold in August 2015).”
“Everything (listed) in our (program) brochure could come here now, for the most part,” noted Park Superintendent Jeff Kinasz.
Davis envisions the room will be “full” Monday through Friday and then on weekends, folks will be able to rent the space for private events such as bridal and baby showers, birthday and anniversary parties, receptions, family reunions, etc.
“That’s another revenue-generator,” he said. “So, not only are we saving (money) on the rent we’re (no longer) paying, we’re going to be generating revenue.”
The department is currently paying the village $1,375 per month for its office space.
The original cost estimate for the new offices/multi-purpose room was $500,000. The department has approximately $421,000 available for the project from the sale of the veterans building. Right now, it appears the project is going to cost more than $378,000, but less than the available $421,000.
Kinasz estimated it will cost approximately $300 to $400 per month in electric and natural gas bills to operate the new place in Seymour Lake Park, which is a substantial decrease over the current rent.
They noted that savings will go right back into the parks and rec. budget where it can be reinvested, either now or later, in facilities and programs that benefit residents.
Davis is grateful to Oxford Township Supervisor Bill Dunn for his support and “his leadership” in helping make the parks and rec. department’s new home a reality.
“Bill was on-board from the get-go,” he said. “He could envision this. Some of those other people just couldn’t envision a pole-barn being converted into this. (To me), it’s pretty easy to see and luckily, Bill got on board.”
“It was an easy leap for us because we already saw it. We had the vision,” Kinasz added. “We knew what this could be.”
At some point, the parks and rec. department is planning to add approximately 3,000 square feet to the building on the east side of the multi-purpose room. This addition would house a senior activities room, plus a basic warming kitchen. The estimated cost is $357,000.
However, a funding source for this project has not been determined by officials. Davis is hoping to use money leftover from creating the offices and multi-purpose room to at least fund part of it. “We’re trying to save as much as we can on this building to put toward that building,” he said.
Davis hopes the Oxford Area Cable Communications Commission will agree to move Oxford Community Television to Seymour Lake Park and build a new station adjacent to the senior activities room.
In late March, he told cable commissioners it would be his intention to not charge them for the land, so the only thing they would have to pay for is construction.
“I hope we can bring them out here. That’s what I want,” Davis said. “That’s going to open up a whole other avenue of programming. (For example,) it would be cool to have a kids TV station out there. They could run classes (here).”