Best: Scale back station
By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 3, 2012 1:46 PM
Providing a $250,000 match for a proposed new GATEWAY transfer center would not pose a problem for the county, but the center needs to be an "office building" with parking and not a "Taj Mahal," Wayne County Commissioner Jack Best told GATEWAY Executive Director Terry Jordan during commissioners' Tuesday afternoon work session.
The city and GATEWAY staff have been working with the center's architect to reduce the cost and have a preliminary proposal reducing the overall cost from $5.3 million to $4.1 million or about $872 per square foot, Jordan said.
"Why do you have to spend $872 on a transfer center?" Best said. "It is just a transfer center. I am sorry. We are talking about $150 per square foot to build an office building. The only thing you are talking about extra is more parking.
"The $872, that is the problem. It is not that we don't need the transfer center. The problem is you want to build the Taj Mahal. Come back to me when you get it down to $150 per square foot."
Jordan said the cost included not just the building, but "everything overall" at the site.
It is still just "too dadburn" high, Best said. People are looking at building it like Union Station, but all that is needed is an office building with extra parking for the big buses, he said.
Commission Chairman John Bell said the idea was to build the transfer center to reflect the historical look of Union Station.
"Bull, it is just a transfer center," Best said. "I don't care. I care about the $150 and the $872 per foot. I want something functional -- something that will work and something that will last 30, 40, or 50 years. When the train comes, then you can talk about putting the facade on that thing and make it look nice.
"The $200,000 is nothing. We can do that tomorrow, but the problem is, it is not building the building, it is keeping it up. It is kind of like that courthouse we have down there now. We have all of that facade and it is breaking down, falling off."
Commissioner Sandra McCullen asked Best if he was suggesting design/build -- a team approach involving an engineer and contractor.
"No," Best said. "I am just suggesting that we fix something that is reasonable and stop making that thing something that it is not. We are talking about a train coming through Goldsboro, N.C., 20 or 30 years from today, not tomorrow. Be practical."
Jordan said that work is continuing to finish the schematics design of the station. Once that is completed it will be a matter of the decisions by the city and county boards whether to proceed, he said.
At $4 million, the county and city's matches would be $250,000 each, County Manager Lee Smith said.
Smith said he thinks the $4.1 million can be reduced even more.
He suggested that commissioners review a study that had looked at the cost of remaining in the current location as opposed to moving into a new center. The finding was that it basically would be a "wash," he said.
Jordan told commissioners that ridership continues to climb -- a trend that is expected to continue. The increase has come with growing pains and has created a need for more drivers, he said.
"We are looking at how we operate and how efficiently we are operating in reference to our expenses and where we can look at increasing the revenues," he said.
One option to increase revenue is offering advertising inside and outside of GATEWAY vehicles, he said. Jordan said he is working with a Raleigh company to determine prices for putting the advertisements on the vehicles.
"It hasn't been that successful in the past, but I think with the new process we are looking into we can also bring in some revenues," he said. "So when it comes time for our budget or when it comes time for us to request additional grant monies we have some type of match that we can put in.
"In the past we have gone to the county or to the city and requested any local match for any grant we are looking to apply for. What I am looking to possibly do is to be able to provide, if not a major portion of that match, at least some of it so the local match would be reduced significantly."
That goal ties in with operating more efficiently to be less of a burden on the county and the city when it comes to providing the local match for the GATEWAY budget, Jordan said.
Jordan said that just prior to the meeting he had received a phone call from an official with Amtrak. The rail service wants to bring a connector bus to Wayne County.
It has been approved and the service could be implemented within the next six months -- around October, he said.
"What they are looking to do is to have a connector, actually a bus, that would stop in Goldsboro and then continue north and south to their train stations," Jordan said. "So it can connect passengers to the rail from these areas. Their thoughts are to initially start the service at our current transfer center then the potential of coming into the (new) transfer center once it is completed.
"That is another good factor in building a transfer center that will be served by multiple modes of transit. The city continues to ask where we are at as time goes on. I guess the question continues as far as the county board of commissioners, your thoughts, your concerns your questions as far as going forward."
Commissioners had few comments on the proposal and took no action.
"The question I would leave you with -- the GATEWAY board and the City Council are asking of the county, 'Do we want to participate in the transfer center?'" Smith said. "I am not asking for an answer today, but I am asking that you think about it and what information between now and the next meeting would you like to have?
"Think about the questions because they are asking. We do know that there is a window that is closing on that possibility and we would like to be able to move forward, but you need to give us guidance of where you would like to go and how we answer the GATEWAY board and City Council. As I understand they are looking for something from us by the summer."