04/09/13 — Comission called on Mount Olive library delays

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Comission called on Mount Olive library delays

By Steve Herring
Published in News on April 9, 2013 1:46 PM

It would be "bad business" for Wayne County not to honor the agreement it made years ago with citizens of Mount Olive to build a new library, state Sen. Louis Pate told Wayne County commissioners Friday.

Commissioners met with local legislators to discuss issues affecting the county.

The commissioners asked the lawmakers to help protect state funding for local libraries, sparking the discussion about the Mount Olive project.

The county had pledged its support for the project. Local citizens raised more than $350,000 to pay for design costs to convert the old Belk department store on West Main Street into a new library.

"I ask you and I plead with you go ahead and get this construction going so that we will have a sign that the county is backing up the city of Mount Olive and the region with a new library," Pate said.

Commissioner Ray Mayo, chairman of the county Facilities Committee, said the committee would meet this Thursday to talk about all facilities in the county.

The meeting will be held at 11 a.m. at the Wayne County Economic Development Alliance office, 309 E. Chestnut St.

"The Steele Library is one of them," Mayo said. "Just a couple of things, not to go into a lot of detail, but the money that was appropriated back in 2007 or 2008 that is when building cost was high.

"We are going through the process to try to get base pricing on this library. That is just one of the things, that is the major thing that we have got to go back and spend the taxpayers' money wisely. All of the commissioners are for this project, I can assure you. But we have to do due diligence in order to get it done."

Pate said he understood, but that the people of Mount Olive do not.

"I think they would like to see some efforts going on," he said. "At least wrap up the building so that it does not deteriorate any further while you are making your deliberation."

Mayo said he had been told that the problem was going to be addressed by the county's facilities department. He said he would follow up to see if it has been done.

"I can assure you (it hasn't)," Pate said. "I looked at it this morning, in the rain."

Commissioners approved a $3.5 million budget amendment for the project in June 2012 with the idea of having the project ready to bid in July and possibly awarded in October 2012.

However, little else has been done, something that has been a concern to library supporters.

Rumors began to surface after meetings late last year between the Facilities Committee, library supporters and with Mount Olive Mayor Ray McDonald Sr. and Town Manager Charles Brown that the county wanted to scale back the project.

Mount Olive officials and commissioners have said that is not the case and that the library remains a top priority for the county.

One problem was the discovery of asbestos. The county paid $32,400 for asbestos abatement. It also has spent $2,176 to close an underground storage tank, $7,325 for a contract review and $650 for a sanitary sewer survey.

Also contributing to the slowdown was the fact that a new board of commissioners took office in December.

Commissioners also are in the process of completing a total facility analysis that includes Steele Memorial Library.

The project hit yet another hurdle when project estimates came in over budget.

The initial project estimate was $3,293,799 for renovation and $500,000 for furniture.

Figures submitted in December had the total estimated cost at $4,715,389, which included $674,899 already spent on the project, plus an additional $56,660 in "potential costs" that were not part of the initial estimate -- $35,000 for parking lots and $20,000 for warehouse repairs.

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

In February, the board approved another budget amendment, this one for $4,900, which was paid by the Friends of Steele Memorial Library, and that will pay for another look at project estimates.

The library project is expected to take approximately 18 months to complete.