Morrens Term Nearly Over

December 23, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — This week not only marks the end of the year, but it also wraps up the three-year tenure of David Morren as chairman of the Kent County Board of Commissioners.

Morren, who is stepping down from the county’s top leadership post next week, created a building task force in his first year as chairman back in 2003, and told the group to take an aggressive approach to secure the county’s building and property needs for the future.

As a result, the county has invested $13 million over the past two years doing just that. Most of that money, about $7.5 million, has gone toward land purchases.

The commissioners last week proclaimed Dec. 15 as “David Morren Day.” Commissioner Roger Morgan, also board vice chairman, noted that commissioners considered and adopted 435 resolutions during Morren’s three years as chairman.

“It’s been a privilege to serve you and, hopefully, I’ve been of service to you because that was my intent,” said Morren, who represents the 10th District. “I’ve grown a lot. I’ve learned a lot and I’ve learned from my mistakes.”

Commissioners will select a chairman and a vice chairman for 2006 on Jan. 3.

Commissioner Fritz Wahlfield has chaired the building task force since Morren called for its inception, and the outgoing chairman gave him credit for what the group has done.

“This was his vision. Fritz has really delivered over the last three years,” said Morren.

The latest purchase by the commission was to buy 14 acres on

17 Mile Road
, just east of U.S. 131, for $702,000. The site in northern KentCounty will be used for a service complex that could house a Sheriff’s post, a health clinic and possibly a magistrate’s office.

“This is a good way to decentralize our services,” said Commissioner Dan Koorndyk.

Added Commissioner Richard Vander Molen: “What we’re doing with this is to have some property in the future to provide services.”

Roughly a month before agreeing to buy the 17 Mile Road parcel, the county purchased six acres along East Beltline, north of Four Mile Road, for $1.08 million. A new 63rd District courthouse is planned for the site, a project that will bring under one roof two courtrooms currently separated by dozens of miles.

“I think this is a fantastic opportunity for us,” said Commissioner Dean Agee.

Back on March 1, the county took possession of 82 Ionia Ave. NW — a 108,000-square-foot office building just north of Monroe Center. Kent had been leasing space there since 1998 and bought the building for $5.5 million.

One of the more notable purchases the county made happened in February 2004 when Kent bought a 1.28-acre riverfront parcel on

Monroe Avenue NW
, only a block north of
Michigan Street
. The county paid $2.45 million for the property and plans to build a new administration building there when Kent vacates its current site on CalderPlaza

“I think this is the right thing to do and I think it’s visionary,” said Morgan.

The following August the county paid $3.3 million for two parcels at Ottawa Avenue and Lyon Street NW for the downtown county courthouse, which had already opened by then. The purchase price came from a dispute the county settled with the land’s previous owner.    

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