New construction may be answer for school system offices

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
jburchette@salisburypost.comThe focus on a consolidated school administration building appears to be shifting from renovating a former grocery store to constructing a new structure off Old Concord Road.
No decisions have been made, but Rowan County commissioners and a top Rowan-Salisbury School System official appear to support a new structure on property owned by the county and school system, rather than buying and renovating the former Winn-Dixie on Jake Alexander Boulevard.
Meeting Monday evening, commissioners heard an extensive presentation from SC Hondros & Associates of Charlotte on converting the Winn-Dixie building to a facility that would house school personnel now spread out over five locations.
Hondros is a design-build company, selected to do a feasibility study on the Winn-Dixie building in part based on its experience designing and building the Cabarrus County Schools administrative office building. The county paid $20,000 for the study of the grocery store.
One proposal involves renovating the existing 50,415 square feet of space at a cost of $2.8 million.
The second proposal, favored by the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education, includes a two-story addition with 16,000 square feet. SC Hondros’ price for the larger project is $4.6 million.
Sam Kleto of Hondros cited additional costs of $376,000 for a new roof, asbestos removal, telephone and technology-related wiring.
In addition to the cost Hondros quoted, the county would pay an anticipated $2.5 million to buy the Winn-Dixie property.
Including the property, the total price for the Winn-Dixie renovation would run $5.5 million to $7.4 million, depending on which option the county chose.
As the presentation ended, Commissioner Raymond Coltrain revived a concept previously suggested by former Commissioner Jim Sides.
Coltrain said the Winn-Dixie is valuable commercial property with tax-income potential. He suggested building a new facility on property the school system owns.
Coltrain called on Gene Miller, assistant superintendent of operations for the Rowan-Salisbury School System. Miller produced drawings and an aerial photo of the bus garage property and an adjacent county-owned house.
Miller said it would be a tight fit, but with the additional county property, a new building could sit on the property and have a separate access for buses. Miller noted he had consulted with two other architectural firms after being contacted by Coltrain.
Hondros did a study for the school system in 2005 and put the cost of a 48,000-square-foot building at $4.2 million, including site work.
Responding to questions, Miller said the project is feasible. He added, however, that he hadn’t discussed it with the school board. Several members of the school board and top administrators, including Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom, were in the audience.
Vice Chairman Jon Barber questioned Miller and Kleto on which would be best to serve as a long-term, multi-generational facility, the renovated grocery store or a new building.
Miller and Kleto agreed new construction would be best.
Chairman Carl Ford said he wants a central office for schools and added he doesn’t want to waste money on an existing building. Ford said the timing depends on money.
Miller responded that interest rates are very favorable and urged the board to move forward.
The administration building is expected to be one of the main topics at the commissioners’ retreat Feb. 25-27.
Commissioner Tina Hall questioned how the Concord Road project had resurfaced after the Board of Commissioners had voted in October specifically limiting the feasibility study to the Winn-Dixie building.
She read the minutes from the October meeting during which the board voted not to look at other options, including the Old Concord Road building suggested by Sides.
Both Hall and Sides had supported looking at other sites.
Miller said he undertook the work at the request of a commissioner and that it “was not a Board of Education request.”
Sides, who left office Dec. 1, sat on the front row with his mother throughout the meeting.
Hall asked several other questions, including why space needs for the central office increased from 48,000 square feet in the 2005 design to a proposed 61,000 square feet in the more recent proposal.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254.