11/07/10 — Commission to eye 2011 capital costs

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Commission to eye 2011 capital costs

By Steve Herring
Published in News on November 7, 2010 1:50 AM

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Preliminary discussions will be held Nov. 18 on converting the old Masons department store into a new home for the county's Health Department and Services on Aging. County commissioners will be briefed on the project and several others, including renovating the old Belk's building in Mount Olive to house the town's library, during a 12:30 p.m. special session at the Goldsboro Country Club.

A preliminary capital improvement plan for Wayne County that would include a new home for Mount Olive's Steele Memorial Library and the county Health Department and Services on Aging is expected to be presented to county commissioners when they meet Nov. 18 in special session.

County Manager Lee Smith's presentation will include an update on a grassroots fundraising campaign by the Steele Memorial Library Steering Committee to come up with $350,000 for the $3.5 million library project.

As of Oct. 21, the committee had raised $215,646 including $131,650 in pledges and $83,996 on deposit, chairman Lynn Williams said.

Also, residents in southern Wayne County can be expecting a mailer within the next several weeks seeking their help in the fundraising campaign.

Plans are to convert the former 23,000-square-foot Belk's building on West Main Street into the new library. It will replace a cramped 2,500-square-foot facility that is housed in a former bank building on North Chestnut Street. The county purchased the building from Mount Olive College for $400,000.

The new facility is being touted as a regional library, encompassing the Seven Springs branch that closed in July. It also will assume some of the technical operations now being handled at the main library on East Ash Street in Goldsboro.

"We are planning to do a residential mailing sometime in November," Mrs. Williams said. "Then we would follow up a night when we would go down a list and make phone calls. The project has been very well-received and people have been gracious in the gifts they have given. I have gotten questions, 'when are you going to do a mailing?'

Mrs. Williams said the committee has requested a voter registration list to use.

She said the committee also is working on donations from corporate foundations, but that the committee is not to the point that it can make announcements.

"We don't know the amount yet, but the Friends of Steele have agreed in principle to help us restore and preserve the Marion Hargrove materials," she said. "They are looking at doing that. We don't have estimates yet how much it would cost."

The late Hargrove, a Mount Olive native, was a well-know author and screenwriter whose screen credits include "The Music Man" and numerous television programs.

"Part of what I am going to be talking to the board (of commissioners) on the 18th (of November)... I will give them an update where the Friends of the Library are on that $350,000," Smith said. "I have instructed (county facilities director) Sue Farmer to begin looking at the possibilities of doing a RFQ, which is a request for qualifications (to hire an architect), to look at as they get close to $350,000, which we think is 10 percent of what we think it will cost to renovate the building.

"As they get close to it we need be prepared to get the RFQ out and begin that process. I will be giving, based on where Friends of the Library are, a time frame in which I think we will be able to renovate the library and how we are going to pay for it. I am looking at a total cost of $3.5 million to $3.6 million right now to do that."

How the project will be paid for will depend on several things, he said. Smith said his initial thought would be pay mostly with cash.

"However, if based on time, if we have another project that comes at the same time, it may be a combination of financing and cash," he said. "You might be able to get some really good interest rates."

Nov. 18 is going to be the first draft of the capital improvement plan for board discussion, he said.

"I probably will be asking for permission from the board of commissioners to move forward or consideration to move forward on at least the first part of design of the William Street property for Services on Aging and the Health Department," Smith said. "I am not asking them to approve the whole project, but at least to get the preliminary design work done.

"With preliminary numbers, that will then allow the board to say by spring 'do we want to do more with the project,' which will then require full-blown drawings, going to bid within 12 months. We have got a lot to do over the next two to three months."

Smith estimates the cost of renovating the old Masons department store property on William Street at $13 million to house the Health Department and Services on Aging. To some extent the cost will depend on what options are included, he said.

"You have to remember that a Health Department is a medical facility," he said. "We are looking at what the industry is doing as far as people renovating, what per-square-foot cost and you have to check it every month to see what is out there. Steel prices can drive it. Concrete can drive it. Asphalt can drive it, whatever and you have to look at that."

Even at $13 million, the project would still be cheaper than starting from scratch and having to purchase property, he said.

"Definitely on the library, if I had to go build 23,000 square feet," he said. "First you have to buy the land. Originally, I think we were at $5.2 million or $5.5 million (for the library), but we have a pretty good building.

"Over on William Street our plus there is that it was a large piece of property with lots of parking that did not require me to do a lot with nutrient runoff. That is huge -- a million dollar expense. When people hear $13 million, it is a lot of money, but I told the board that I feel like with changes in health care that health departments, and health departments get a little stigma, I see it turning into sort of a health service center. You are going to see some primary care clinics because health care is changing."

Smith said he and several commissioners are concerned about Wayne Memorial Hospital. The hospital has hired doctors, but the county continues to lose doctors, he said.

"If that is the case, where are our people going to get health care if I am losing primary health care physicians?" he said. "They have got to go somewhere, and the hospital cannot do it all and remain profitable. They cannot see indigent walk in off the street, or all Medicaid folks. We have to find some balance there to keep the hospital profitable.

"That hospital is a great resource for our community and without it, we would be in trouble. We have to do what we can to make that hospital strong, and I think building the right type of Health Department we can keep our hospital strong."

Approximately 15,581 square feet of the new library would be used for library services and is expected to have shelving capacity for more than 67,000 items including 20,000 children's books and audiovisual items, 40,000 adult and teen books, and 7,000 audiovisual items.

It will have separate areas for small children and teens, an exterior courtyard, a wireless Internet connection and a public meeting space that also would be available after hours. There would be several smaller study spaces as well as a place just for reading.

The outdoor courtyard that probably would be located on the large sidewalk area in front of the new library that would be accessed from inside the library.

There will be areas for displays, too.

People interested in making a donation to the library should contact Mrs. Williams at 581-3628 or Greg Eloshway at Southern Bank at 658-7000.

People also may go by the library on North Chestnut Street and pick up information or drop off donations.

Checks should be made payable to Wayne County Public Library, and the Steele Memorial Building Project should be indicated on the checks. Checks may be mailed to the Wayne County Public Library, 1001 E. Ash St., Goldsboro, N.C. 27530.