Transfer needed to cover roofing, interior work at West End Plaza

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Rowan County may not have enough money stashed away to pay for initial construction at West End Plaza.

When it’s time to shell out money for roof and interior renovations, the county will pay noticeably less than previous estimates. Costs, however, are more than the approximately $1.8 million set aside for the project. As a result, Rowan commissioners will need to transfer money from the county’s fund balance — partially a savings account — to help cover all costs, according to County Manager Aaron Church.

Commissioners’ meeting agenda for Jan. 4 contains a budget amendment to transfer $675,000 from the county’s fund balance to the West End Plaza Capital Projects Fund, which contains the $1.8 million. County Manager Aaron Church said the transfer would help cover the first and second phases of work.

“Technically, it’s coming from the fund balance, but it all came from the fund balance at one point,” Church said. “Every check we write is from the fund balance. … They’re not going to be raiding the fund balance.”

The county’s fund balance became a contentious topic in 2014, as commissioners sought to secure a loan in conjunction with West End Plaza. Initially, county staff told a the state’s financial regulatory body the fund balance was dangerously low. The regular financial audit later that year proved that statement false. A transfer in January also wouldn’t drop the savings account to dangerous levels.

In July, Church estimated the first phase of construction at West End Plaza — roofing and interior renovations for the Board of Elections and Veterans Services — would be $2.3 million. Earlier this week, the county’s estimate was $2.46 million. The actual amount will likely be $1.83 million — just over what Rowan has set aside.

The county opened bids on Tuesday from a number of contracting companies for roofing and interior renovations. Roofing and interior renovations were split into separate projects.

Church said the latest cost projections “exceeded any expectation.”

“You never know how bids are going to turn out, and I think what we got is going to be a good deal for the taxpayers,” he said.

AAR Roofing, in Forsyth County, submitted the lowest total bid amount at $1.322 million. Johnson’s Roofing, just south of Charlotte, submitted the second lowest amount at $1.329 million. Interstate Roofing, in Charlotte, was third lowest of the seven bidders at $1.395 million.

County commissioners are bound by law to pick the lowest bid amount, but companies also submitted estimates for two optional projects — a roof over J.C. Penney and a space covering a portion of the Board of Elections space. The optional roofing sections complicate commissioners’ choice.

Johnson’s roofing submitted the lowest base bid, which would only cover the middle portion of West End Plaza. Once the two optional projects are included, AAR Roofing is the lowest. After county staff evaluate roofing bids further and commissioners choose whether to include optional projects, any one of the top three might be the final choice, according to Church.

Church said the county “could probably” pay for construction if the optional parts aren’t included. In other words, the fund balance transfer would not be required.

Costs for renovations at the Board of Elections and Veterans Services isn’t as questionable. There’s no optional portions of renovations.

KMD Construction, in Salisbury, submitted the lowest bid at $468,000. EVS Construction, in Charlotte, submitted the second lowest bid at $501,700. LaFave’s Construction, in Landis, submitted the third lowest bid at $508,450.

By law, commissioners would be required to choose KMD Construction — the lowest bidder.

The earliest county commissioners could make a final choice is at the regularly scheduled Jan. 4 meeting. By choosing contractors for roofing and interior work, commissioners would be finalizing costs for the first phase of construction at West End Plaza. It would be the first time any major construction work has occurred at West End Plaza — the former Salisbury Mall — since commissioners purchased the facility for $3.4 million in 2013.

Rowan County Commissioners intend to use the former mall partially as offices for county government. The J.C. Penney building has been rented out for events, and commissioners have pondered placing a permanent events center at West End Plaza.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.