Board weighs options on flooded facilities

Published 9:15 am Tuesday, October 12, 2010

WINDSOR – Moving on.

The Bertie County Commissioners began the process of doing just that here Monday morning.

During their meeting, the board made decisions as to how to proceed with a variety of buildings owned by the county that were damaged during the flooding caused by five days of rain two weeks ago.

In addition, the board also issued a directive for a study that will end with the development of a long-range facility use plan.

The commissioners opted to work towards repair on two of the buildings owned by the county, delayed action on two others and left one with no plans to be restored.

The board authorized spending up to $30,000 for repairs to the Bertie County Sheriff’s Office building contingent upon review by the insurance company.

That building was damaged when the basement was flooded, causing damage to all of the ductwork under the facility as well as to an electric panel that was on the outside of the structure.

Building and Grounds Supervisor Anthony Rascoe said the ductwork could be replaced at an estimated cost of $23,500. He also said the inner workings of the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) system would be moved into the attic and out of the basement.

“So you’re telling us the building is usable,” quizzed Bertie County Commission Chairman Norman M. Cherry Sr.

Rascoe said the building would be once the ductwork and electrical panel were replaced.

The supervisor said the electric panel would be moved inside the building and would cost $3,500 to replace.

Commissioner Rick Harrell made the motion to approve the expenditure with Commissioner J. Wallace Perry offering a second. It passed without objection.

The Criminal Justice Partnership Program (CJPP) building on Granville Street in Windsor will receive immediate attention because of problems with the roof.

Bertie County Manager Zee Lamb said the roof of the building was leaking prior to the storm, but insurance was still being filed.

“We may or may not get insurance money because there were pre-existing conditions there,” Lamb said. “We are filing a claim because it is our contention that the storm made the condition worse.”

Lamb said the CJPP building had been kept up by the partnership through funds received by renting out empty rooms in the building. The partnership, however, only has approximately $4,000 in its fund balance and cannot pay for the repair of the roof.

“You have two choices,” Lamb told the board. “You can replace the roof or you can pay the monetary amount over what they can pay now and collect it back in future years.”

Cherry asked how adding payment for the roof would affect services offered by the CJPP.

“They would have to tighten their belt,” Lamb said. “If it wasn’t for the program income, they would have to live with a $91,000 budget. They offer other services because they have the additional funding.”

Cherry said he knew two things. One, the roof needs to be fixed and two, the CJPP doesn’t have the money to fix it.

Commissioner Rick Harrell asked if they could be moved to another location and Lamb said that wasn’t a likely solution.

“Then we have to fix it,” Harrell said.

Harrell made the motion to repair the roof with Perry offering a second. It passed without objection.

Lamb asked if the board wanted to pass the cost to the CJPP over the next several years.

“For right now, let’s get the roof fixed and we’ll come back to that at a later time,” Cherry said.

The county did not reach a decision about what to do with Lawrence Memorial Library’s current facility, however. After a long discussion, the board reached consensus that it would prefer to move the library.

“What can be done to relocate the library,” Harrell asked at the beginning of the discussion.

Lamb said there were several possibilities, including building a new facility.

Cherry asked if there were grant funds available to help with library construction and Harrell said he didn’t know about grants, but Perdue Farms did want to help the community.

“I was contacted by Perdue and they want to do something to help the community and asked for us to give them some options,” Harrell said.

Lamb said the building that houses the library is owned by the county and the contents are owned by Albemarle Regional Library. Both are insured.

Commission Vice Chairman L.C. Hoggard III said he was concerned about putting money into restoring the facility.

“We have had two 500-year floods in 11 years,” he said. “I’m afraid in five or six years, we’ll have another one.”

Hoggard said he wanted the county to aggressively pursue having the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to buy out the library and other properties in that area.

“That’s a much better idea than going down there and fixing the building again and hoping and wishing,” he said.

Lamb said the library facility and the law offices of Pritchett & Burch, also located on Dundee Street, would be good candidates for a buy-out if one came. He also said the county had discussed the possibility, but it was solely in the hands of FEMA.

The manager said he had told the library board to plan to be in that location for one to three years, but that was because he thought it would take that long to make a new home for it.

“If you want, we can walk away from that building right now, but we don’t have a practical alternative,” he said.

Cherry said he would like the board to strongly consider working with Perdue to assist with a new library building.

The board reached consensus to move in that direction and Harrell agreed to report the board’s decision to Perdue and ask for their assistance.

Another building the county delayed action on was the maintenance shop that is located near the Heritage House Restaurant. Rascoe said the building was flooded again and that several thousand dollars worth of merchandise was lost.

Perry asked how much the building was used and Rascoe said often in the summer, but none in the winter.

Lamb said the building was not insured against flood.

The board asked Rascoe to begin the work of looking for a new shop, but made no other decision about the issue at this time.

The final building the county had damage to was the old office building on Queen Street, which is home to the Bertie County Board of Elections and the investigators of the Bertie County Sheriff’s Office.

Rascoe said staff members had emptied the building and removed the carpet, but had taken no further steps to repair the facility.

“You really need to look at it,” Lamb told the board. “At this point, I would not recommend spending any money on it.”

After the discussion, Harrell said he believed the board should look at having a facility-use study done.

“We need to look at our over-all operations and how we use the space we have,” Harrell said.

Cherry said he agreed.

Lamb said some agencies would contract that out or the county staff could do it.

The board agreed the county should have a committee, headed by Lamb, to conduct the study and make a decision on how to best use all space owned by the county.