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Money tight in first phase of West End Plaza work

Rowan County may face a budget crunch as it begins to renovate the former Salisbury Mall.

The effort to overhaul the former mall, renamed West End Plaza, officially began Monday when commissioners approved a contract with Charlotte-based ADW Architects, but the county’s coffers may not have quite enough money to pay for the first phase of construction, according to county estimates.

To date, Rowan County has $1.8 million for work at the mall. Money comes from a loan — approved in May — and two allocations from the 2015 and 2016 fiscal year budgets.

In a memo to commissioners dated July 27, County Manager Aaron Church estimated the first phase of construction — roof work and interior renovation of the Board of Elections and Veterans Services —to cost a maximum of $2.3 million.

Included in the cost estimates are $55,500 in architect fees for ADW Architects and nearly $112,000 for a roofing engineer.

Church’s estimates would leave Rowan County with a shortage of $200,000 to $500,000.

An additional funding method to pay for all three projects — the roof and two county department spaces — hasn’t been identified and may not be needed.

“We’ll just have to do it the same way families do,” County Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds said. “We’ll have to do what we can when funding is available.”

Financially, West End Plaza’s roof is, by far, the largest portion of initial construction work. An estimate submitted to Rowan County by REI Engineers for roofing work totals $1.3 million for the middle portion of West End Plaza, according to contract documents. REI also submitted an estimate for the former JC Penney Building totaling $277,900.

Edds said it was more economically feasible to do renovations on a larger section of roof than only portions covering space for the Board of Elections and Veterans Services.

“We thought it was a smarter move to address the entire center part all at once,” Edds said about the roof.

Rowan County could work with its available funding by focusing on the roof and adding county department space renovations, if funding allows, Edds said. When Rowan County eventually solicits bids for construction, roof work will be the base bid, or main project, and the two county departments will be alternates, Church said.

Church’s method of bidding would allow Rowan County Commissioners to choose one or both county departments, depending on bid amounts.

Edds and Commissioner Mike Caskey, when asked, both mentioned the Rowan County Board of Elections as the most important to place in West End Plaza.

Caskey mentioned the relative proximity of municipal elections and presidential primaries in 2016 as a significant workload for the department. The State Board of Elections has also intervened in Rowan County’s space needs situation, recommending a move in 2007.

The funding crunch could be temporary. By the time Rowan wraps up construction on the first phase of work at the West End Plaza, it will nearly be the next fiscal year, Caskey said. A new fiscal year could mean additional allocated funding for renovations at West End Plaza.

In 2020, several million dollars in debt owed by Rowan County will also be paid off. He said the additional money could be used for schools, the West End Plaza or other projects.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.





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