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Discussion for alternate West End Plaza design ends in withdrawal

SALISBURY – County commissioners held a discussion Monday to amend a contract with ADW Architects, but it ended with a withdrawal by Commissioner Craig Pierce of a proposal for an alternate design.

The architecture firm has been working to create a design for an agriculture center at West End Plaza. The discussion Monday was specifically related to plans for possible alterations to the building’s floor plan in order to accommodate office space for agricultural agencies and events. The conversation was requested by Pierce.

County commissioners went back and forth as to whether or not shifting the focus for an events space out of the former Belk building and into storefronts in the building’s main hallway was a good idea as well as whether it would postpone current progress.

“I don’t want to do anything that will stop the wheels turning of what we already started, and where we already are,” Commissioner Mike Caskey said.

Pierce expressed his concern — the total cost of the project as previously proposed — and ideas at the meeting.

“We’re showing we don’t have quite the $15 million left in our capacity to borrow, and I certainly don’t want to short that community with what they need, but at the same time I am not seeing the numbers stack up,” Pierce said.

Pierce requested an alternate plan that would give Rowan County Cooperative Extension a meeting space facility of at least 13,000 square feet.

“It would be four times what they currently have, just in case the numbers don’t come back suitable for us to do all of the projects. And I just want to have that information put out there so that we may have other options to look at,” he said.”What I have selected is the four different storefronts that are contiguous to the agricultural upfit, and each of one of those walls are petition walls and are not structured. They can actually be taken out.”

Commissioners discussed placement of each proposed space and how Pierce’s proposed plan would affect any current plan.

“I’ve had conversations with the sheriff, and him having new office space is last on his list of priorities. His first priority is the storage facility he desperately needs for evidence,” Chairman Greg Edds said. “If the sheriff needs office space, let’s start to study that and see what would be the best thing. I want some folks to study that and see what’s the best location for him.”

Edds expressed concern about shifting the focus of priorities regarding the project.

“I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time talking to stakeholders around the county. Almost unanimously (they’ve) identified the Belk building as a great asset for the community, where we could have meetings and events and try to attract different events here,” he said. “If we want to try to take the focus off of that, and move the meeting space to the middle of the mall. I personally don’t support that.”

Edds said that he believed the greatest support from the community regarding the project is to have “something great” happen in the Belk facility.

“My understanding is that this will change our base bid. Are you asking for two base bids?” Caskey asked Pierce during discussion Monday.

Pierce responded that he was simply “asking for an alternative”

He later said he was asking for an alternative to what the cost is to the current meeting space.

“It’s going to be hard to vote on anything until we get an architect here to ask questions. I’m not saying we can’t do what you want but I’m saying do we have enough information right now,” Caskey said. “To do this, don’t the architects have to go and bring us more information?”

ADW architects has been asked to create a more complete design for West End Plaza, which would come with more concrete cost estimates. Pierce asked what would happen if the county couldn’t afford the plan architects return with.

“It would make them start at ground zero again. And that is what I am trying to avoid,” he said.

Pierce said his request aimed to reduce proposed costs.

Pierce’s plan, in addition to creating space for Cooperative Extension, forestry and the soil and water conservation district, included but was not limited to removing partition walls, painting them, installing sound systems and new carpet for an events space.

But after debate, Pierce said he wanted to withdraw his request because he knew there wasn’t enough support from other commissioners.

“It’s very obvious to me what’s going on here,” Pierce said. “I’ve withdrawn my request and that will be the end of it.”

Items on the consent agenda, used for items with no opposition, included:

• Approval for permission to apply for the Rowan County Health Department and the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office to apply for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services grant.

• Commissioners approving a request for Rowan County to be a lead agency in a project to enhance election security across the state.

• Commissioners approving the North Carolina Department of Transportation to add Providence Church Road to the state secondary road system.

In other business:

• The board recognized retiring Library Director Jeff Hall and presented him with a plaque.

• Rowan County’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) System received recognition for receiving the American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline EMS Gold Plus Award for their work. Rowan County Emergency Services recognized their partner agencies for the role they played in first response to assist with patients and more. County commissioners gave words or praise and appreciation to each of the recognized agencies at the meeting Monday.

• The board approved a kitchen design at Ellis Park. The plan includes storage areas that are easily secured, updated finishes, a handicap accessible kitchen area, commercial upgrades and more.

• The board received a financial report for fiscal years 2016 to 2019 regarding tax, revenue and expenditures. The report was presented by the finance department.

• Rowan-Cabarrus Community College (RCCC) asked for support for a referendum on the March 2020 ballot to support a bond initiative to fund construction of facilities projects. Construction would include a 105,000 square foot facility and renovated space that is proposed to be complete by March 2024. Plans would relocate multiple programs.

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