Space needs study draft reveals space needs in most departments

Published 12:10 am Sunday, February 22, 2015

Rowan County officials knew their departments needed additional space, but for months they’ve waited for a study to state the exact amount. That wait is slowly coming to an end.

A space needs study is just one part of a two-step process to determine the future layout of Rowan County’s facilities. The space needs study is expected to be presented by Charlotte-based company Adwarchitects on March 2 to commissioners. In April, commissioners are expected to receive a master plan, which, according to county manager Aaron Church, would make suggestions about how the county could proceed with giving departments additional space.

A letter from the Charlotte architecture firm to Church states the master plan would consist of “developing recommendations for each department with regards to alterations to or expansion of the department’s existing space or relocation of the department.” The master plan would include an aerial map of a recommended location for each department, according to the letter. The two locations listed in the letter are downtown Salisbury and the West end Plaza.

Talking about space needs, Edds said the study and master plan are forcing county government to take a “long-term approach.”

“We’ve not had that luxury before under tough economic times,” Edds said about the study. “In the probation office, for example, we’ve got them in three different properties and going to a fourth. We can’t have that. That group needs to be under one roof, just like we’re trying to move school administration under one roof.”

Consolidating departments into a single building that has adequate space would be more efficient, he said.

“There are a lot of departments who have a need for conference space,” he said. “Their growth patterns will explode over the next few years. We’ve seen the first two drafts and we have an idea of what (the final draft) is going to say.”

Preliminary drafts of the study are already complete and reveal a lack of space in nearly every county department. The most recent draft, more than 250 pages long, includes a detailed report of county departments and state departments housed by Rowan government. The only departments without extensive needs, according to the study, are Register of Deeds, the sheriff’s office satellite location in Landis, cooperative extension and 911 telecommunications. The study even recommends a back-up facility for telecommunications.

Animal control is listed as needing space, but an expansion project that would double the animal shelter’s size is being planned.

Last week, Church said the architecture firm completing the study is on step six of 12 to complete the contract, which includes work on a master plan. In total, about half of the company’s tasks or $30,000 in fees of the $66,062 total is left.

The final draft of the study was originally scheduled for a December release, but delayed after county officials also asked for the court system to be included.

As part of the work required to complete the space needs study, the Charlotte-based company toured every county department and passed out surveys. Some of the prompts on the survey were: what activities usually take place in the current space, list all current personnel,  describe your department’s need for conference space, describe your department’s interaction with the public and what is the anticipated growth of personnel in your department for the next five, 10 and 15 years.

Some departments, such as Social Services and Health, have a lengthy list of needs. For others, such as the county’s Board of Elections, the study simply states “a new facility is needed.”

Needs listed for the health department include:

• No room for growth of any kind, including: staffing, storage, offices, conferencing and educational space.

• An insufficient number of parking spaces for clients

• The Health Department director is in charge of Environmental Health, but the division is at a separate facility

• Appointment desks are not private enough for clients

• Workstations in the building’s rear administration area are small and crowded

Because the two share the same building complex, DSS also has parking listed as a need. Other items listed in the study for DSS include:

• A large conference room does not have adequate sound isolation and cannot accommodate very large groups

• A conference room for up to 300 people is needed. The study also states a movable partition system is needed to divide the room into smaller sections.

• The facility’s current location is not on a bus line

The Rowan County Sheriff’s Office is another department mentioned by the previous crop of county commissioners as a candidate for a move to increase space. It’s listed as having multiple needs in the study.

Under the main branch of the sheriff’s office, the study states: “population, crime and demand for services will grow. Spaces to accommodate that growth will be need accordingly.”

The detention center needs more space for inmates, the study states. At the main detention center, the study states kitchen storage is insufficient, while it states the kitchen at the jail annex is not used to prepare meals.

Needs listed in the study also extend to departments not frequently discussed by commissioners previously as needing space. Emergency Services is one example and has a lengthy list of items listed as future needs, including:

• The heating, ventilation and air conditioning system brings vehicle exhaust into the building.

• The garage area is undersized for current vehicles.

• There is no room for growth of any division

• Storage is significantly insufficient

Like Emergency Services, the library is another area with space needs that’s not often talked about by commissioners. The needs listed in the study include:

• The Local History and Genealogy Research Library within the headquarters has significantly outgrown its current space

• Storage space at the library headquarters is used by the Board of Elections.

• The East Branch Library is at capacity and needs additional space.

• The West Lending facility needs a new facility to better serve residents. The study states the current facility is a small, honor-system collection drop-off 

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246