Estimates for renovating Granite Quarry Town Hall exceed $3 million

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 17, 2018

GRANITE QUARRY — The Granite Quarry Board of Aldermen has hoped a proposed renovation of Town Hall could accomplish many things:

• Stimulate other investments in downtown property.

• Modernize the facility, especially its heating and air conditioning system.

• Improve access to the building and bring it up to current building codes.

• Provide additional storage space for departments.

• Extend the life of the building and make sure its a viable hub for town services for 40-plus years.

But cost estimates for Town Hall’s makeover have caused the board to take pause.

“Isn’t the real question whether we can afford $3.5 million?” Mayor Pro Tem Jim LaFevers asked.

Mayor Bill Feather put it a similar way to his colleagues: “Can we afford it? Do we want to afford it?”

The Board of Aldermen devoted a segment of its retreat — conducted Friday at Town Hall — to a review of the legwork so far behind possible renovations.

The first discussions about renovating Town Hall go back to the 2015 presentation of a Downtown Revitalization Plan.

Town staff members then talked with Salisbury architect Bill Burgin, and he and Dan Norman met with the mayor, mayor pro tem and department heads before coming up with a first set of plans in September 2016.

The architect presented initial cost estimates in April as part of preparing a feasibility report for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, through which town officials hoped the renovations could be financed.

For federal funding, Granite Quarry officials learned, the renovated two-story Town Hall would have to include an elevator. A final cost estimate, with the elevator, came in October.

Broken down, the costs included $1,188,012 for the first floor, $946,365 for the second floor, $555,398 for the building and site, and $552,820 for administration expenses, which would include temporary office relocations.

With a contingency of $134,489, the estimated price tag comes to $3,377,084.

Town Hall is at 143 N. Salisbury Ave. and serves as headquarters for town administration, the fire and police departments, and maintenance. It also includes a public meeting room.

Town Manager Phil Conrad asked for the board’s direction in determining the feasibility of the project, whether to get public input on the design and cost, and deciding whether the USDA financing is the way to go.

A previously appointed committee of Aldermen John Linker and Jim Costantino will delve deeper into the questions in coming weeks.

Linker said with the board’s commitment to downtown revitalization, Town Hall needs to make an aesthetic and cosmetic contribution to the central business district. But he acknowledged he isn’t sure the present Town Hall is the building to do it with.

He said the Maintenance Department is squeezed as it is, the Police Department doesn’t have the best of secure environments and Fire Department employees face a hazard in hurrying downstairs to answer calls.

For now, Linker said, he has more questions than answers.

Feather said the board should figure out the monthly finance cost and what effect it would have on the town’s property tax rate. He emphasized any renovations would have to be good enough to serve the town for the next half century.

A Band-Aid approach has been taken through the years on the heating and air conditioning system, said Alderman Kim Cress, the town’s former maintenance director.

“The heating and air system is antique,” Cress said, adding it has always been a problem for the building.

The required installation of a fire sprinkler system would represent another major cost. Estimates put that at close to $75,000.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.