12/30/12 — County could adjust Steele Memorial Library project

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County could adjust Steele Memorial Library project

By Steve Herring
Published in News on December 30, 2012 1:50 AM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Rumors that Wayne County commissioners are looking to curtail the scope of the town's new Steele Memorial Library project have been "blown out of proportion," Town Manager Charles Brown said last week.

"There are some rumors floating around out there to which there is no basis to," Brown said following a Thursday morning meeting with Commissioners Steve Keen, Ray Mayo and Joe Daughtery, County Manager Lee Smith and Mayor Ray McDonald Sr.

There was no mention during the meeting of the project being cut, Brown said.

However during a recent meeting of library supporters, Daughtery reportedly mentioned possibly cutting the project to just over $2 million.

"I think most projects need to be reviewed," Daughtery said during a telephone interview Thursday. "We are just in the process of reviewing. I think everybody is committed to a library for Mount Olive.

"We all are committed to that, but again I think people would expect us to review all of the costs in order to make sure that we are getting the most bang for the buck. That is all that we are doing at the present time."

Asked if he would like to cut the project to $2 million, Daughtery said, "Oh, no, no, no. You would like to build it for $100,000. The point is that I don't think there are any figures that have been definitive as yet. We are just looking at the overall cost."

Daughtery said he did not recall mentioning any specific amount.

"There may have been a figure thrown out," he said. "I knew when I made the comment in regards to reviewing all costs, I knew that very likely that would not be a very popular thing to state.

"But sometimes you have do some things that are not very popular. The popular thing to do would be to just blanketly say, 'Yes that is fine. Just go with it.' But the prudent thing to do would be to review all of its cost."

Brown said he thought one problem contributing to the rumors was that some people had gotten their numbers confused.

"The original cost estimate on this thing was like $3.5 million," he said. "It may have gotten out of control somewhere down the line. I don't think anybody knows what it is gong to cost because nobody has a cost estimate on it yet."

An initial analysis estimated the library project cost at $3,293,799 with another $500,000 for furniture.

Updated figures submitted this month have the total estimated cost at $4,715,389. However that total includes $674,899 already spent on the project, plus an additional $56,660 in "potential costs" that were not part of the initial estimate.

Those include $35,000 for parking lots and $20,000 for warehouse repairs.

The new total on just the building reflects an additional $145,818 for IT equipment and $44, 273 to install it. That amount would be less if the work is done in-house.

The $674,899 already spent includes the $401,150 the county paid for the property over a two-year period between 2008 and 2009. It also includes $231,198 for architectural fees paid for through funds raised by the Friends of Steele Memorial Library fundraising committee. More than $350,000 was raised, with up to $311,000 earmarked for the architectural fees.

The county also has spent $2,176 to close an underground storage tank, $32,400 for asbestos abatement, $7,325 for a contract review and $650 for a sanitary sewer survey.

A meeting is scheduled for this week between Smith, Mayo, county staff, the library consultant and architect and members of Friends of the Library to look at costs associated with the project.

Thursday's meeting to discuss the town's facilities needs, including the library, was requested by commissioners, Brown said.

However, Commissioner John Bell, the sole Democrat on the board, said that he had not been told about the meeting and didn't know anything about it.

"We have not had any discussion on library funds," Bell said.

Commissioners Bill Pate and Wayne Aycock could not be reached for comment.

Since only three commissioners attended the session there was not a quorum -- a majority of four members is needed -- and as such, it was not an official meeting under the state's Open Meetings Law.

"We have not met some of the new (county commission) members and we just wanted to sit down and talk with them about the facilities in Mount Olive," Brown said. "Nobody is cutting the library project. The library project has not been cut, canceled or whatever. They are looking at cost estimates right now. They are going to have public work session at some point in time.

"They are committed to a southern Wayne library, which would be in Mount Olive, and one in the northern end of the county. I think they are doing the prudent thing, which is to look at it. You have a bunch of guys who just came onboard. They don't know what is going on with this. I think that they are wise to look at it and determine exactly where they are."

No specific comments on what the county wants to do with the library were made during the meeting, other than commissioners are committed to moving forward, Brown said.

"They are going to have some workshop sessions on it before they put it to bid, but everybody remains committed to a library in Mount Olive," he said. "I don't know where all of that (rumors) is coming from. There are rumors out there. There are people out there who knew about this meeting before I even knew about. Ray didn't even know about it and we are getting emails from people saying, 'You all are meeting next Thursday.' I am like, 'Not that I know of.' So I don't know where all of that is coming from.

"I think the problem is that it is going to do a disservice to the library. The message that we got this morning is that they are still committed to it. They wanted to know the town's participation. Of course we are paying the upkeep and utilities for the current library building."

Brown said he had told Smith that he felt sure the town would be willing to participate at the same level that it is participating at currently -- approximately $12,000 annually.

The town does not charge the county for use of the building.

"To have a facility of that type in Mount Olive, I think that we would be foolish not to participate in it," he said.