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At retreat, Granite Quarry town board discusses updating Town Hall, expanding police force

By Mark Wineka
mark.wineka@salisbury post.com

GRANITE QUARRY — At their annual retreat Friday, Granite Quarry officials looked closer at renovations to Town Hall that could cost at least $2.27 million, depending on the option chosen.

“This is a big one, for sure, for sure,” Alderman John Linker said in presenting four options for discussion during an in-town retreat lasting all day.

Meanwhile, Granite Quarry-Faith Police Authority Chief Mark Cook asked the board to consider adding two full-time officers at a cost of $94,424.

“Right now, we’re really running at a minimum staffing level,” Cook said, and he shared a manpower study calculated for the department in 2018.

The Police Authority has eight full-time officers, with some part-time help.

A wide gamut of other items were discussed Friday, touching all departments and taking in things as varied as code enforcement, tennis courts, equipment purchases, recodification of ordinances, television monitors for the board room, a sewer extension to the industrial park, sidewalks, the Town Hall marquee and planters on the square.

Toward the end of the day, Mayor Bill Feather and the Board of Aldermen decided on some of their priorities, giving low, medium and high rankings to the things they discussed.

Town Hall renovations came in with three for “high” and two for “medium.”

“I just want to have more information,” Feather said with his “medium” vote, which was also the ranking from Alderman Kim Cress.

Linker, Mayor Pro Tem Jim LaFevers and Alderman Jim Costantino weighed in with high priority votes, which for them was saying some kind of improvements should be made at Town Hall.

Linker and Costantino have been part of a committee looking at the issue.

Linker said the key points for a rehabilitation of Town Hall are that it could stimulate downtown investment; provide more space for departments; update heating, air-conditioning and electrical systems; bring the building up to code; and extend the life of the building 40-plus years.

The aldermen started discussing a renovation of Town Hall when they adopted a 2015 Downtown Master Plan, whose goals included the phrase, “Make architectural improvements to municipal building.”

Architects Bill Burgin and Dan Norman have given the town some ideas on how to make changes inside and outside, beginning with a first set of plans in 2016.

Overall, aldermen seemed to prefer the first of four options presented Friday. It calls for a first-floor renovation and an exterior remodeling and landscaping. The total price tag is estimated at $2,270,279.

Arguments for this option were that it meets the needs of the Police Authority and provides “professional spaces that directly interact with the public.”

It would accomplish a downtown revitalization goal. And the remainder of Town Hall, including the second floor, Fire Department and maintenance area, could be addressed on a five-year plan.

“You accomplish a lot with Option 1,” Costantino said.

Option 2, a complete Town Hall renovation, would cost almost $3.9 million.

The costs of Options 3 and 4, suggesting construction of a new administration building somewhere else, were still in question. One of those choices calls for the administration building to be built on a town property along Mary Ponds Avenue behind the Dollar General store on North Salisbury Avenue.

The existing board room at Town Hall would continue to be used, but the rest of the building would be devoted to police, fire and maintenance.

The other option recommended construction of administrative offices over retail space, which could be built on an available corner lot at Salisbury Avenue and Church Street.

Linker presented all these options with the overall questions of, “Do we do anything?” and “Does it address our long-term goals?”

The question of financing hasn’t even been explored, Linker noted.

Cress said, “This is just kind of discussion, which is what a retreat is.”

On the police staffing request, the town board was a bit more lukewarm with four “medium” votes and one “high” priority vote from Linker.

Cook said the new officers would cover a multitude of duties, along with increasing community engagement and safety of the officers themselves.

The additional full-time officers essentially would give the Police Authority two officers for each shift over 24-hour periods. Their addition also would reduce by a large percentage roughly $23,000 being paid annually for part-time officers, Cook said.

Deputies with the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office help the authority “quite a lot,” Cook said, “and that’s due to the lack of staffing.”

“With the growth we’re having now,” Costantino said, “you’re going to need two more officers soon, easily.”

Of the $94,424 total cost for two officers, Granite Quarry would be responsible for about 80 percent, with the town of Faith picking up the rest.

Budget decisions will be coming in the months ahead. The 2018-19 fiscal year starts July 1.

Cook also is looking to continue the Police Authority’s vehicle-replacement policy of purchasing a new replacement vehicle each year. The plans for 2018-19 are to replace a 2012 model.

The new car would cost $31,000, with an additional $10,000 for equipment and decals.

More on the Granite Quarry retreat will follow in coming editions of the Post.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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