West End Plaza construction projected to wrap-up in June 2016

Published 12:10 am Thursday, September 10, 2015

Rowan’s Board of Elections will likely have to endure two more elections in a facility declared unsafe years ago by the state, according to county estimates.

The latest estimates from County Manager Aaron Church project June 2016 as the end of the first phase of construction at the former Salisbury Mall. Renamed West End Plaza, the former mall’s first phase of construction includes roof work and interior renovations to about 10,000 square feet of space for the Board of Elections and 1,600 square feet of space for Veterans Services.

Church’s estimates would mean the Board of Elections remains in its current facility for the 2015 municipal elections and 2016 presidential primary.

When asked why commissioners haven’t expedited the process of moving the Board of Elections into West End Plaza, Chairman Greg Edds said the county is limited in what it can do by laws and “bureaucratic processes.” Edds said he wished Rowan County could expedite the pace of construction and mentioned the rapid pace in which private businesses can make decisions.

In late 2014, it appeared Rowan County was ready to start construction work immediately after receiving a permit from the city of Salisbury. County government first advertised for an architectural firm to oversee renovations in September 2014.

Then, a new group of three county commissioners took office. With a three vote majority over Mike Caskey and Craig Pierce, the newest commissioners voted to cancel all contracts at the former Salisbury Mall. At the time, Commissioner Judy Klusman said canceling contracts would allow county officials to consolidate work under one architect.

Rowan County was forced to shell out nearly $60,000 to pay for work performed on the canceled contracts.

Last month, commissioners picked ADW Architects to oversee construction at West End Plaza.

Any actual construction work, however, won’t start until after December, according to Church’s estimates. Last week, Church said he received a rough draft of a design from ADW Architects for West End Plaza construction. At some point, commissioners will need to approve West End Plaza’s floor plan, he said. By December, Church said, commissioners should have bids in hand and be ready to start construction.

In a Sept. 23, 2014, Salisbury Post story, Commissioner Craig Pierce also said the county had bids in hand.

“We’re ready to get to our renovations now,” Pierce said in 2014. “We’ve already been approved by the county inspection office and already have bids in hand.”

The June completion date is months away because of anticipated weather delays — rain, frigid temperatures and snow — Church said. Roof work will be a significant part of construction. Church said roof work will especially be affected by the quality of weather conditions.

The projected June completion date will likely keep the Rowan County Board of Elections in an office that state officials first found issues with in 2007. Among the problems at the time, according to state documents, were a lack of parking and an unsecured basement.

In a June 2013 memo, Board of Elections Director Nancy Evans wrote about the potential problems caused by remaining in the department’s current facility in the county administration building.

“If our current working conditions are not improved by obtaining adequate space, the board feels a serious mistake could occur, resulting in thousands of county funds to be spent in re-conducting an election as well as bringing unfavorable attention to the county,” Evans wrote in the memo to commissioners.

Since the memo, the board of elections has only gained use of an additional conference room to store materials.

The next two elections are Nov. 3 — for city council and town board positions — and an undecided date in 2016 for the 2016 presidential primary. Rowan County’s Board of Elections may be required to conduct a second primary election if legislators don’t consolidate the presidential primary — projected to occur sometime in March — with the May 3 primary for governor, congress and the legislature.

“We’re just going to have to do the best we can with the space we have,” said Elections Specialist Laura Russell.

Following the this year’s municipal elections, Russell said ballots would have to be moved to the administration building’s basement — the same one declared unsecured by the state — to make room for presidential election work.

It’s unclear when presidential primary ballots might come in, Russell said.

During the 2012 presidential primary, the Board of Elections piled ballots in Evans’ office, which is also used as a board meeting room. During the 2014 elections, ballots were similarly scattered around Evans’ office, leaving narrow walkways.

Church said there simply isn’t any other space to move the Board of Elections into.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.