03/26/09 — County's space needs bow to economy

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County's space needs bow to economy

By Steve Herring
Published in News on March 26, 2009 1:46 PM

The pressures of space-starved county departments are, at least for the foreseeable future, losing out to the even stronger pressures of a struggling economy.

"Unless we see a real economic change all capital projects will be delayed by at least a year," County Manager Lee Smith said Tuesday. "Capital projects for the most part have come to a halt for at least 12 months."

Those projects include a new home for the Health Department, Services on Aging and Steele Memorial Library in Mount Olive.

Commissioners in December agreed to purchase the old Masons department store building -- the old flea market -- on William Street with an eye toward renovations that would provide a new home for the Health Department and Services on Aging.

They also purchased the old Belk building in Mount Olive to house Steele Memorial Library.

Smith had hoped to start work on the Masons property within the next 12 to 24 months. It appears now, however, that the 12-month goal has been shelved because of the poor economy.

All that will be done, he said, will be ensuring the building is secured and stabilized. The water and power have been turned off at the building and the roof is in "fairly good shape," Smith said.

Both buildings were purchased as an alternative to more expensive new buildings to meet "exploding space needs," Smith said. It has been estimated a new building for the Health Department and Services on Aging would cost close to $35 million. The county paid $800,000 for the 86,000-square-foot Masons building and property.

The Health Department is located in the old hospital building on East Ash Street. Relocating it would allow the county to sell some of the older outlying former hospital buildings now being used, as well as some parking lots creating additional savings for the county.

The building, Smith said, is one of the most energy inefficient ones the county owns.

The Masons property has a large 400-space parking, and since the county would not change the site's "footprint," it would not have to worry about meeting nitrogen runoff requirements -- a costly issue that could run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

There is access off Stronach Avenue as well as two entrance options off North William Street and it is on a major GATEWAY bus route. Fiber cable is available off Stronach Avenue enabling the county to connect the building to the county system.

Meanwhile, it will be two to three years before work could begin to transform the old Belk building on West Main Street into the new home for Steele Memorial Library.

However, efforts should soon be underway to raise approximately $25,000 to draft a building program outlining how space will be used and detailing the kinds of services the community wants.

The project is expected to cost approximately $3.5 million. County officials have said that a new building for the library would cost between $4 million and $5 million plus the cost of the land.

Still, Goldsboro Wayne County Library Director Jane Rustin said that she expects to hold a fundraising campaign to help for the construction -- much like how the community helped build the county's new animal shelter.

"At least now I feel like I know where we are going," Ms. Rustin said. "It is very encouraging that we finally are getting going. There is a great deal of interest in it."

The county purchased the old Belk building on West Main Street from Mount Olive College for $400,00. The purchase includes a parking lot located diagonally across from the building.

The county appropriated $200,000 in its current budget for the purchase. The remaining is to be appropriated in the 2009-10 budget.

Currently, Steele Memorial Library is housed in a town-owned building on North Chestnut Street, one block north of the old Belk property.