Projects approved

Published 10:13 am Thursday, June 21, 2012

WINTON – Hertford County’s Board of Commissioners approved two key measures here Monday night regarding plans to build a new courthouse at Riversedge.

After listening to an update on the project from the county’s architectural firm and discussing the debt service payments (see related story, this page), the commissioners opted to build a Judicial Center and County Government Center (administrative office) for a combined $11.71 million.

The Judicial Center (courthouse) is a three story facility encompassing 45,456 gross square feet. Construction cost is estimated at $7.72 million plus $720,000 worth of site development.

The single story Government Center (10,385 gross square feet) will be built adjacent, but not connected, to the courthouse. Construction costs for that facility are projected at $1.45 million.

Preliminary design of the administrative building, as previously discussed by the commissioners, would house the county manager’s office, tax collection office, tax assessment office, land records, finance office and economic development (planning and zoning) office. In turn, that space in the current administration building in Winton would be used by Hertford County DSS.

Combining the construction and site development costs along with additional monies for other architectural design and old and new project costs brings the bottom line total to $11,716,583.

The board, also on Monday night, approved the purchase of 10 additional acres of land (at $7,000 per acre) located directly behind the 25 acres gifted to the county by the Riversedge development partners. That property will be used for future expansion of county offices.

Pete Cayado, an architect for Ware Bonsell, a Charlotte based business under contact by Hertford County to design the new courthouse, gave a brief update on the project’s status as well as presenting a revised master site plan.

He said the layout of the buildings and parking spaces were pushed more towards the eastern side of the 25 acre parcel.

The latest development, he said, was connected to DOT’s plans to widen, to four lanes, US 158 located in front of the courthouse property. That road project will divide the highway by a median, meaning the junction of US 158 and Parker’s Fishery Road would no longer be a “cross intersection.” DOT plans to install a u-turn median near the courthouse property to serve both that facility and traffic needing to access Parker’s Fishery Road.

“The problem with that is it moves the driveway for the courthouse a little further to the east (off US 158),” Cayado said. “We’ll no longer be able to do the on access driveway that runs straight into the courthouse.”

Cayado also made the commissioners aware of another issue with the new courthouse. He said the North Carolina Building Code has changed since the original mechanical and electrical design of the facility was drawn.

“We’re looking at some pretty substantial changes on the courthouse design based on the energy code in particular,” he noted.

Another change in the building code is the addition of 50 percent of “exit capacity” (stairs).

“We have to add a third exit stair to the building, only to serve the second floor,” Cayado said. “Under the old code the two sets of stairs we had were okay; now they’re not under the new code.”

To follow the new state code, a stair tower (an emergency fire exit, not for general public access) has been added to the west end of the building.

“We were still able to keep the main building looking the same as designed,” Cayado said.

The commissioners were also presented a plat showing the full description of the 25 gift acres from ASP Riversedge along with Parcel B (the 10 additional acres).

“I want to emphasize that one (parcel) is not contingent on the other,” said Chuck Revelle who serves as legal counsel to the board. “The 25 acres is offered as a gift no matter what decision you make on the 10 acres.”

Cayado presented the two options – (1) to build the Judicial Center, with all the required code changes and site development changes for that building, and all the parking at a cost of $9,929,377, roughly $1.23 million higher than the original design; or (2) construct the same size Judicial Center, with all the changes noted above, along with a County Government Center, and all parking at a combined cost of $11,716,583.

“What is significant for the public’s benefit is that we were originally talking about an $8.6 million facility when we were looking to build the new courthouse here in Winton,” said Hertford County Manager Loria Williams. “Upon moving to the Riversedge site there came about additional site development fees. We took the time to have the architects to check into what the site development fee would be for all the sites we originally had under consideration. There is a significant change to the site development, to include parking and storm water issues.”

According to the information provided in the board packet, the site development fee on the gift property is $720,000 for either of the two options. New project costs, based on the mandated changes by state code and site design, are $242,218 for option one and $490,419 for option two.

Due to the fact that the 25 gift acres did not have an accurate description of that parcel due to a hold-up with DOT to see how much right-of-way they would need in the widening of US 158, the board needed to re-accept that final deed (with the preliminary plat now complete showing DOT’s right of way requirements).

Commissioner Johnnie Ray Farmer motioned to accept the gift acreage, contingent upon the land being turned back over to the grantor (ASP Riversedge) if the county had not begun construction on a new courthouse within one year of the transfer of the title. That motion was approved without objection.

In regards the 10 acres offered to the county for purchase, Revelle suggested the commissioners needed to have discussion on option one or option two for the reason of what they may place on that property.

“(Your decision) will affect how much land you need and the location of things,” Revelle said.

“It’s been our intent all along to purchase those 10 acres so we would have ample property for future use,” Farmer stated. “I’ll make a motion that we purchase those 10 acres.”

The board unanimously agreed to support Farmer’s motion.

As far as their decision on option one or two, Cayado reminded the board that if they are planning on starting construction within 12 months, they need to choose either option as soon as possible in order to satisfy all the requirements by the state to review and approve the design.

“When we first began talking about an administration building, we were looking at two separate buildings with both attached to the courthouse,” Farmer noted. “Now we’re looking at one building that’s not attached.”

Commissioner Bill Mitchell motioned for the board to take two weeks to study more closely the details of the two options before reaching a final decision. That motion died for a lack of a second.

Farmer motioned to move forward with option two. Commissioner Ronald Gatling offered a second and the motion was approved by a 4-1 vote with Mitchell in opposition.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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