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County manager: West End Plaza events center renovation could cost $1.6 million

SALISBURY — The Rowan County commissioners want to renovate an events space at West End Plaza but not if it costs $1.6 million.

Private groups often use the former J.C. Penney building for functions. In July, the commissioners agreed to find out the cost of renovating the space, including replacement of flooring, new restrooms, electrical upgrades, painting and a portable audio/visual system.

After learning the estimated costs of such renovations, the commissioners on Monday unanimously voted to delay a decision on the plan.

The commissioners said they expected the cost to be a few hundred thousand dollars, but the estimate was as much as $1.6 million or more, said County Manager Aaron Church.

“I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from commissioners on the price of this contract ,and I think I can explain it,” Church said. “It may not make anybody feel any better, but it breaks down what the cost covers and why the cost is what it is.”

The contract being considered by the commissioners totaled $117,000, which would cover services provided by ADW Architects. That quote is based on a minimum of $38 per square foot and a maximum of $60 to $68 per square foot, Church said.

At the low end, the renovation of the J.C. Penney building for an events space would cost $900,000. At the high end, the cost would be $1.66 million, Church said.

He said the amount paid to ADW Architects would be a flat rate rather than a percentage of the construction cost.

“It doesn’t matter if this ends up being $4 million, which I can’t imagine it being that,” he said. “I can’t imagine it being $1.6 million, but the EMS station we just did was right around $500,000 for a 1,500-square-foot building. So the costs of materials are going up.”

The estimated cost would not include an audio/visual system, Church said.

Factors affecting the cost would be the number of restroom stalls installed and whether ceiling tiles need to be replaced, he said.

Church said a space currently occupied by a salon was originally going to be the site for restrooms for the events center, but he said there would be so many restroom stalls needed that the salon space wouldn’t be big enough.

As Church discussed the potential cost of a West End Plaza renovation, Commissioner Craig Pierce and Vice Chairman Jim Greene chatted with one another.

When Church said the flooring alone would cost from $60,000 to $100,000, Pierce jumped in.

“Oh, no. Ain’t no way. Nowhere near that,” Pierce interrupted.

The commissioners briefly went back and forth about possibilities to reduce costs.

Speaking quietly to Greene and Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds, Pierce asked whether commissioners would be OK with a renovation that included only new carpet and paint.

Commissioner Mike Caskey asked whether a majority of the cost was for restroom renovations. Church said yes but added that electrical and mechanical renovations to the restrooms account for most of the cost discussed Monday.

“I think each of us thought we were just going to do a little refresh and put a few hundred thousand dollars into this thing, but apparently it’s more complicated and expensive than that,” Caskey said.

Caskey said he would support delaying a decision on the matter until September. Greene offered a motion to do just that.

Greene’s motion passed unanimously, and Pierce, who owns a construction company, said he would help analyze any contracts.

In other business from Monday’s meeting:

• Commissioners approved the rate schedule for bills for the northeastern water line in the Dukeville area.

The water line will start near Interstate 85, pass an economic development site and provide people living near coal ash ponds with water. The commissioners approved a rate schedule that sets $68.50 as the minimum amount for residential bills. That cover as much as 5,000 gallons of water per month.

The rate could increase or decrease depending on a number of factors, including whether county officials successfully recruit a business to the economic development site.

• As part of the consent agenda, commissioners approved contracts to purchase 15 vehicles at a cost of about $450,000.

The Sheriff’s Office will purchase 14 vehicles from Asheville Ford Lincoln at a cost not to exceed $432,362 and one vehicle from Ilderton Dodge Jeep RAM at a cost not to exceed $25,435.

• The commissioners approved a group known as Growing Rowan to hold meetings in a vacant space across from the Veterans Services office in West End Plaza.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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