TBTA close to acquiring new home

ALPENA – The Thunder Bay Transit Authority board has found a new home for a proposed $7.5 million transit facility north of the city on US-23.

The undeveloped, 12-acre site, owned by Roger Glawe, is located on the southeast corner of US-23 North and Hamilton Road, across the highway from the industrial park water tower. A pontoon boat and some recreational equipment are on display there currently. Otherwise the property is covered with grass and shrubs and surrounded by industrial enterprises.

“It’s available, vacant space and should be fairly reasonable to build on,” authority Treasurer Dan Daoust said.

The new site also is about the same distance from the city as the present site.

During Monday’s regular transit authority board meeting, officials would not discuss the price because a final purchase agreement still needs to be drawn up. The task will take a couple of weeks, and board members want to review the details. Meanwhile the deal is anchored by a letter of intent between the authority and the property owner.

That agreement sets in motion hundreds of decisions that will have to be made regarding planning, bidding, design and construction before ground is broken. The authority also will have to plan the move from its current facility at 3020 US-23 to the new site six miles north.

Board President Greg Sundin, who also is Alpena city manager, said he wants to see the closing completed before Thanksgiving. The board’s next regular meeting is Oct. 28.

Board members said the site has several advantages. The property is relatively flat, and wetlands and other environmental issues are absent.

Prell Services General Manager Billi Edmonds, who oversees operations of the Thunder Bay Transportation Authority and Dial-a-Ride, said other issues have been resolved. The Michigan Department of Transportation, Alpena Township and Alpena County Road Commission already have reviewed the site for zoning, traffic and access issues, further speeding up the process.

Edmonds was given the go-ahead to research the costs of hiring a special consultant, who would help develop a request for qualifications from area architects and other project consultants. The winning company would have the winter to do the site and architectural designs.

Momentum for the new facility began in the summer of 2011, when the authority won a competitive grant from the State of Good Repair Fund. The $7.5 million award will pay for the land acquisition and facility.

Initial plans call for a facility that can provide indoor storage for 45 vehicles, offer public parking, and provide high-ceiling maintenance bays and a pit or lift for inspection and repairs. It also would contain offices and meeting space for staff.

Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at blehndorff@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.