County OKs ag center funds
By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 3, 2013 1:46 PM
No site has been selected, nor any plans drawn for a proposed $12 million Wayne County Regional Agricultural Center, but county commissioners Tuesday morning voted unanimously to appropriate $2 million for the project.
The action was taken to demonstrate that the county is serious about the project to replace the aging Wayne Center, board members said. Discussion of the need for a new center has been tossed about for several years.
Commissioners are hopeful that state and federal grants, and possibly some private donations, will be available to make up the difference.
Commissioner Chairman Steve Keen made the motion to appropriate the $2 million from the county revenues generated by cable television franchise fees.
The county sets aside those revenues for special projects, he said.
The appropriation will not increase the county tax rate, Keen said.
Commissioners unanimously approved the motion.
The board projected construction of an $11 million center in fiscal year 2016-17 in its capital improvement plan adopted in June.
The new center would house the Cooperative Extension Service, Cherry Farm administration, Center for Environmental Farming Systems, Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Services, and Wayne County Soil and Water.
Most of those offices are now in the Wayne Center.
It also would include classrooms and an auditorium that could accommodate up to 378 people in banquet-style seating or 528 people in auditorium-style seating.
Steve Allen, president of Solutions for Local Governments, spent about an hour Tuesday morning briefing commissioners on the latest incarnation of the agricultural center. Allen was involved in drafting the county's 2006 plans.
Total construction costs are estimated at $10,877,075. However, Allen said it was important to realize there are costs that would add $1,341,249 for a total project cost of $12,218,324.
Those costs include architect/engineering fees, site and construction materials testing, document printing and contingency.
The county could save some of the cost by using design/build, he said.
In design/build, an architect and general contractor form a team that works under one contract with the project owner, in this case the county, providing both design and construction services.
That process was used to build the county's Senior Center. It also is being used on the Steele Memorial Library project in Mount Olive.
The county made unsuccessful attempts in 2007 and 2009 to convince the state Legislature to help fund an agricultural center. The county did receive $200,000 from the state in 2005-06 for the 2006 study.
A committee to review the possibility of reviving the project was created this past spring.
Costs of major repairs needed at the Wayne Center prompted the commission to consider a new building. It is estimated $222,000 would be needed to replace the roof and for electrical and other projects.
Another $190,000 to $200,000 would be needed to resurface the parking lot.
There are other long-term costs to be considered as well, said Milford Smith, county facilities director.
The original plan called for the center to be built on a plot of about 10 acres near Cherry Hospital.
The new proposal keeps the new 56,565-square-foot center in that same area.
Allen suggested the county consider the site where the McFarland building is located on West Ash Street across from the State Employees Credit Union. The second location is the old dairy operation on the Old Smithfield Highway. The building on Old Smithfield Road could possibly be two-story, Allen said.
Buildings on those sites would have to be demolished before construction could begin, he said.
Commissioner Joe Daughtery said he supports the project, but is concerned that the two sites were "kind of off the beaten track."
Commissioner Bill Pate, chairman of the Agricultural Center Committee, said those concerns had been discussed. That concern will be addressed when the nearby Interstate 795 is extended to Interstate 40, Pate said.