Editorial: Take a trip to Long Street office
Higher-than-expected bids on the new, downtown central office for the Rowan-Salisbury School System are disappointing but not insurmountable.
Anyone who might consider the project unnecessary should take a tour of the school offices on Long Street in East Spencer. Safety concerns at that building and the inefficiencies associated with operating five facilities are the driving forces behind the new central office, and those are very legitimate concerns.
"I think it's apparent to anybody who looks at it with non-tinted glasses that it's not a good situation," said Chad Mitchell, chairman of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, more than a year ago. When commissioners gave the school board permisson earlier this year to spend $6 million on a new building after decades of indecision, Mitchell declared that history had been made. But the chapter has yet to close. Architect Bill Burgin reported last week that bids came in too high; the lowest was $7.4 million. Either the plan will have to be scaled down further, or the county will have to borrow more money for the schools to pay back.
Wisely, Burgin has gotten to work trimming the project back.
Back to Long Street. The 88-year-old building that served as the Rowan County Schools' headquarters before merger has such uneven floors that in some places you have to walk carefully. In fact, it was found to have floor deflections of up to 2 inches, according to a January 2008 report from structural consultants Interface for Consulting Engineers. The firm said the building has "far exceeded the useful service life of floor systems utilized as office and administrative space."
The report went on: "In our opinion, the structural integrity of the major floor systems may be compromised with the continued use of the building as office space and record storage space."
When the South Main Street location for a new school headquarters came up earlier this year, Barwick & Associates of Charlotte proposed building a 62,000 square-foot building for about $8 million. Burgin reduced that to 48,818 square feet as he aimed for the $6 million figure. Now he is reducing windows and taking other steps to trim costs. These are small things compared to the great need the building will address.