Costly changes

Published 9:52 am Tuesday, December 27, 2016

AHOSKIE – The face is fine. In which direction the new Ahoskie Public Library will be facing is yet to be determined.

At their most recent meeting, members of the Ahoskie Town Council heard from the architects of the facility, which will be located between Southern Bank and Ahoskie Presbyterian Church.

However, discussion continues on whether the proposed 10,469 square foot building will face Main Street or Church Street.

Ann Collier and Janae Wilson of Oakley-Collier Architects in Rocky Mount presented to Council a presentation on the Ahoskie Library Project floor plans.

In September, a discussion took place during the Council meeting about the front of the building.

Councilman Charles Freeman discussed concerns about what the building would look like from Main Street; and from the sides of the building facing Southern Bank and the Presbyterian Church. Freeman said he was under the impression the library would be facing Main Street.

Also at the September presentation, Councilman, Rev. C. David Stackhouse said he couldn’t remember his fellow members discussing the building’s frontage, saying it was taken for granted that the structure would face Main Street. It was also at that meeting when Freeman requested a soil sample.

At the December meeting, Council members Linda Blackburn and Charles Reynolds had excused absences, but the other three: Stackhouse, Charles Freeman, and Justin Freeman, listened to presentation.

Collier led off her PowerPoint presentation with the Geotechnical Engineering Report, conducted by Stewart Engineering of Raleigh, which included the requested soil sample that had been completed last spring (May 2016).

“The soils are less than ideal,” Collier noted. “That (result) did lead to our placement of the building. We’ve located the building with an access off of Church (St.) in-and-out and a double access off of Main Street.”

She revealed the site has what’s known as ‘Coastal Plain soil’, like a lot of eastern North Carolina, and that has layers of clay and elastic silt on the top and varying soils underneath – four feet to six feet down.

Collier said because of the soil content, certain areas of the building were better than others on the site, and that led to the placement and the facing locations.

“The main entry side of the building does face Church Street,” she said. “But all four sides of the building do have some very good visual effects.”

The section of the building that would face Main Street contains the library’s children’s section, with study rooms and small group rooms facing the church with a community space.

Collier warned that contractors may undercut the price of work on the site based on the soil locations.

The library parking lot would consist of 50 parking spaces with access to the building from Main and Church Streets. She also interjected there were four options of varying levels with design changes to consider.

Design-one had a primary entry off Main Street, minimal sidewalk, the 50 parking spaces, and a secondary entryway facing Church Street.

“This would call for some moderate interior re-design of about $26,000,” she explained. “It would mean parking and walking around to the front; but there’s plenty of access for mechanical and electrical services.”

The second option would be similar, except the primary entryway would be from the parking lot with the Main Street entrance becoming secondary.

“It’s about the same cost, and it doesn’t involve any major site re-working, there would be some interior re-work,” she pointed out. “The children’s wing would move to the church side, and the study rooms would go from the church facing to the Main Street side. That re-design is fairly simple, but it takes a little more mechanical and electrical detail to be worked out. A third to one-fourth of the building would change including moving space around on the interior.”

Charles Freeman inquired about a retaining pond and whether it would be a fenced-in area.

“It doesn’t contain water,” Collier said. “It’s just a lower area that would retain it. It’s detention versus retention.”

Discussion reminded the architects that the area once contained a tobacco warehouse.

Option-three would create more of a presence on Main Street because some parking would be moved from the back to the front.

“That’s about $34,500 to re-design because we are adding a few more (parking) spaces,” she cautioned. “We have explored this and our 50 parking spaces were ample for what we were looking for in the design … It keeps the entrances on Main and Church but pushes the building back, re-designs the site, and adds parking in the front.”

Collier said the fourth option was not the best because it pushes the building further back in the site, and eliminates the connected access from Church Street and might mean cutting out parcels that belong to the church, which she said would be less than ideal.

“We put it in there because we didn’t explore it, and it doesn’t do a lot for the plan and is the least attractive of the four,” she said.

Councilman Justin Freeman asked about the price tag for the original library design – the total building. Collier said she was uncertain of the specific amount but believed it to be around $1.7 million.

Mayor Jimmie Rowe asked if any contractors had seen the designs yet or made any bids on the work.

“Not from the standpoint of bidding,” Collier answered. “We have submitted this to USDA and gotten their approval to move to bids whenever you all say it’s time. It’s ready to either move back and do some re-designs if we need to, or move into bids and get an actual contractor.”

Town Manager Tony Hammond told Council that the Ahoskie Library Committee has paid everything they have been asked to pay for with the project, but that they were out of money and that if the architects did any more re-designs, then the town would have to end up footing the bill out of the general budget.

“When will we be able to turn it over for bids,” Charles Freeman asked.

Hammond said once the bids are submitted it would then go before the Local Government Commission (LGC). Collier added that minor re-designs would not have to go back before USDA, but rather submit to a short review.

“We would publicly advertise (for bids), and we know bidders in this area we have worked with and we would contact them to see if they are interested, but we would advertise so anyone could bid,” said Collier. “It would be a bonded bid, as required.”

She also gave a hypothetical timeline with bids received in late January, holding the bids until the LGC and Council approve, then begin construction – conceivably – in late March to early April.

Collier said one last item to mention in locating the drive was the intersection of Main Street and Catherine Creek Road.

“That’s a pretty main intersection and we want to keep it as far away from there as possible,” she acknowledged.

As the discussion ended, Collier said she would make certain Council received copies of all four design options as well as cost estimates for review at a later date.