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Study reveals significant space needs for county departments

It’s taken months, but the county’s space needs study presented Monday largely revealed what commissioners already knew.

After months of work, an architecture firm under contract for the study on Monday revealed Rowan County will need more than 438,000 square feet for its departments in the next 10 to 15 years. Commissioners chairman Greg Edds and Vice Chairman Jim Greene said the numbers confirmed previous expectations of space needs.

The numbers were provided during the county commissioners’ regularly scheduled Monday meeting. Future needs and currently occupied space comprised ADW Architects’ projection. Needs included in the study were largely based on requests from county departments. ADW Architects also made predictions based on tours of county offices. The study divided needs for each county into five, five to 10 and 10 to 15 year periods. For the board of Elections and Veterans Services, the study simply lists an amount of requested space and doesn’t make projections about future years.

The presentation by ADW Architects was relatively short, only presenting the various projections.

After Monday’s meeting, Edds reserved judgement about whether the former mall, renamed West End Plaza, was a good purchase at $3.4 million. Edds said the relative value of the mall purchase would be decided when the county receives firm estimates about how much renovations at the former mall could cost compared to an entirely new facility.

“The space needs study initially started out with a tremendous amount more than what we were shown tonight,” Edds said. “We’ve cut and pruned requests that we just did not feel were reasonable or necessary and landed on a bottom line. We actually won’t know if (the former mall) was a good purchase until we receive our master plan.”

Commissioners Vice Chairman Jim Greene echoed Edds after the meeting, saying the former mall’s purchase would prove to be a good purchase if a master plan, scheduled to be presented to commissioners in April, shows the facility could be adequately used.

By far, the department with the greatest projected increase in needed space is Social Services. The space needs study projects Social Services will need a combined 20,190 square feet over the next 15 years, excluding its current space. Including currently used space, Social Services is projected to need 63,043 square feet for daily operations. Most of the additional space is listed as being needed within five years. Social Services’ needed space is largely composed of offices and client interview rooms.

The second largest department with square footage needs is the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, far behind Social Services at 12,314 square feet, excluding its current space. A large portion of the sheriff’s office future needs are listed as evidence storage, according to the space needs study.

County manager Aaron Church said the finding he was most concerned about in the space needs study related to probations — a state agency the county is legally required to provide space for. Currently, the county pays $100,000 per year to lease space for probations. The county leases about 12,000 square feet for the state agency, according to the study. In 10 to 15 years, the space needs study projects probations will need about 19,000 square feet.

The county is required to provide space for probations in close proximity to the Rowan County Courthouse. Currently, probations is located in three different buildings. Church said the county would either have to build an office facility for probations or continue leasing space, if needs grow as the study projects.

Church’s cost estimates for constructing a new building, excluding land acquisition costs were $3.5 million at the high end.

In April, ADW will present a master plan of county space, which will make suggestions about where county departments should be located. The Board of Elections, Veterans Services and Facilities Maintenance have already been approved by commissioners to move into the former mall.

Social Services and the Health Department have also been previously proposed to move to the former mall, with the sheriff’s office filling the county’s facility on East Innes Street.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

 

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