Dearborn Heights City Council on April 26 approved the award of the design bid for the shipping center to Partners in Architecture PLC of Mount Pleasant, as recommended by City Engineer Ali Dib.
Because the City Council previously refused to join Dearborn’s Consolidated Operations Center, the city has decided to modernize facilities, which use their own dispatchers to take emergency calls and relay information to first responders – police officers, firefighters and EMTs.
City engineer Ali Dib said the shipping center project has been under consideration for several years.
“It was decided that we will have our own dispatch center at the police department, so an assessment was made of the existing facility and what the needs are to get us where we want to be,” he said. “So there are some things that are mandated by the emergency system, so we evaluated the existing facility and looked at best-in-class elsewhere.”
Dib said the current surcharge is for the design phase only.
“We have to work with what we have,” he said. “We invited professional companies that specialize in this type of work and took them on an on-site visit so they reviewed the existing facility and could make good recommendations on what needs to be done.”
Dib said the designers interviewed the dispatchers who take calls and the police chief, asking site-specific questions, such as how sunlight from the windows affects their work environment, and they looked at the other shortcomings of the dispatcher’s existing space asked .
“Exits, storage and break rooms were examined in detail before the proposals were made,” he said.
Dib said he reviewed the work Partners in Architecture had done elsewhere and noted that they were the company that did the fire department renovations for the city and said their work on the job was excellent.
“Not the original design,” he said. “They assessed the causes of the defects, so this is the company that actually did the assessment – not the original designers. That’s the kind of work they do.”
Abdallah was impressed by an example of the company’s work.
“I felt like I was in a Batman movie,” he said. “Technology galore everywhere.”
Dib said that within the city’s budget, the company will design the best shipping center that meets the city’s needs.
“It’s designed for our use,” he said. “This will take us to the next level.”
Dib said that when the design is ready, they will submit it to the city council before soliciting bids for construction.
“The lighting was an issue, the raised floor was an issue, the windows are an issue to the point where they actually put up bed sheets in some cases,” he said. “There are a lot of flaws in the facility, but that was the intent of doing the tour with the designers — I didn’t want them designing in a vacuum.”
Dib said he wanted the designers to see the facility and understand what the shipping staff currently have to deal with so their proposal addresses existing concerns.
He said the design phase will take about three months, after which the city can bid for the construction phase.
City Council Member Tom Wencel said he was one of the people who fought to improve the shipping center and he looks forward to following the progress step by step.
City councilor Mo Baydoun asked Dib how much he expects inflation to affect project costs.
Dib said inflation will not affect construction work in the same way as construction work.
“Construction, since we had a set budget before COVID, we may have to play with the budget,” he said. “But not the design part.”
Dib said they could either reduce the design or apply for grant money to offset the increase in construction costs as the project is eligible.
He said there are extra workstations at the dispatch center that can be used while new equipment is being installed so that dispatchers are not negatively impacted by the construction.
Dib said it was assumed the cooling system in the building was adequate for the shipping center, but he heard from staff during the tour that wasn’t the case.
He said the need for a backup generator also needs to be considered, which is a big ticket item.
“These are going to have a big impact,” Dib said. “So we’re going to see if we can make it work within our budget, and if not, we need to change it.”
Dib said the police building is about 19 years old and some of the cables aren’t compatible with the newer technology, so those might need updating too.
He said it’s possible funds from TIFA, the Tax Increment Financing Authority, could be used for the updates.
Wencel praised Dib’s work.
“You’re like Midas – you have the golden touch,” said Wencel. “Anything you can get your hands on turns out really well and we’re glad you’re taking care of it.”