05/18/11 — County buys buildings

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County buys buildings

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on May 18, 2011 1:46 PM

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Wayne County officials announced Tuesday that they would be purchasing the former Sportsman's World building to house the county senior center.

The Wayne County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved the purchase of three buildings at 2001 Ash Street to house the county's Services for Aging Department.

The cost of the buildings, which are currently occupied by Sportsman's World, Nash Printing Co. and Wayne Pregnancy Center, is $1.495 million and the county will perform $800,000 worth of renovations to prepare the facility to house the senior center, which caters to Wayne County residents aged 60 or older. County Manager Lee Smith said he hopes to move the department by Thanksgiving.

Smith said the buildings were the county's top choice, given their centralized location, ample parking and price, but the deal is sweetened by the possibility to continue generating revenue from tenants. The county plans to occupy only the Sportsman's World facility to begin with, while collecting rent from Nash Printing and Wayne Pregnancy Center. Smith said the center will eventually phase in other services, such as a special needs and adult day care in the Nash Printing building.

The county will pay for the buildings and renovations in cash, Smith said, as it has been saving up money for a project of this magnitude for years.

"We've been reserving dollars for years for a project like this," he said. "So we'll be able to pay cash out of reserve. This is going to be a good project and something that everybody can be proud of."

Services for Aging Director Eryn McAuliffe said the center will now have enough space to properly house the programs she offers.

"Currently the biggest room I have isn't big enough for large events," she said, noting that they have had to be held elsewhere in the past. "We'll be able to expand the fitness room, which is not large enough to hold all of the equipment we'd like to have. We'll have a dedicated space for arts, crafts and sewing. There will be an outdoor space -- a porch to sit and enjoy the weather. We'll have room to put up our pingpong table.

"It's going to be an overall expansion of a lot of what I can offer."

Mrs. McAuliffe said that outside of her own excitement at the purchase, she had seen an overwhelmingly joyous response from users of the center she had spoken with Tuesday afternoon.

"I've been announcing it today and they're overjoyed," she said. "I think the program is going to grow."

Smith said that the county had been looking for a new location for about six months, with discussions and presentations from sellers occurring during closed session meetings.

As for the current Services for Aging center on South John Street, Smith anticipates expanding the Day Reporting Center, which is also housed at the facility, to fill the vacancy. Smith said he would like to move the entrance to the center to face the Wayne County Courthouse and that the moves are part of a larger effort to consolidate county services.

"It's something we've put a lot of thought into," he said, adding that the William Street property the county owns will eventually be the Health Department as the county moves its departments into complexes together for efficiency.

In other business at the board meeting, the commissioners recommended Smith begin negotiations with RATIO Architects, Inc. in Raleigh for the Steele Memorial Library renovations to be done at the old Belk Building in downtown Mount Olive. Louis Cherry will be the primary architect.

Smith said he would bring a contract to a future county commissioners meeting.

The board also moved to rename the county's airport with a unique name that would be distinctive to Wayne. The commissioners approved renaming the airport the Wayne Executive Jetport.