• 61°

Preliminary site plans discussed

WINDSOR – Bertie County Commissioners were updated at a special Work Session last week (July 31) on several of the county’s upcoming projects, including plans for the location of the county’s public library and offices of the Cooperative Extension Service.

The two are expected to share a joint facility at a site when final plans are approved.

Albi Albrecht, Architect with MHAworks of Greenville, along with Bertie County Manager Scott Sauer provided a project update on site development and the proposed site plan.

At the May 7 Commissioners’ meeting, Sauer told the Board that county staff has been in contact with several landowners about different properties for sale in Windsor, but nothing had prompted them to move forward with an option to purchase.

The new sites came under consideration after the location at the corner of Camden and Sterlingworth was ruled out due to environmental concerns.

Among several sites to consider was a county-owned property where the now-vacant old county Department of Social Services and Health Department buildings are located.

Another of the new prospective sites under consideration included an eight-acre lot located at South King Street and Lancaster Drive, just off US 17 North, Bypass in Windsor.

Then at their May 15 meeting, the Commissioners declared finding a suitable location for the twin facilities, the second most pressing priority for the Board.

Commissioner John Trent stated at the time that per a discussion from the May 7 meeting, he had made contact with the land owner of the eight acre site, the owners of which are from Jacksonville, NC, but were willing to work with the county on the land acquisition. Board chairman Ernestine Bazemore told Trent to arrange a meeting in Bertie County with the owners.

Following that meeting, the owners were willing to proceed with a sale and the county staff and legal team then worked out the particulars. MHAworks then worked with the surveyor (Spruill & Associates, also of Greenville) on other aspects associated with the area. Albrecht’s update included cost reductions, value engineering and programming adjustments.

These adjustments included dividing the parcel into near-equal four acre plots (3.8 acres for the Library/Extension office) with the other four acres (4.2 acres) vacant for now. The architect brought survey maps to augment his findings.

“I want to make certain this is what both parties want before we start an overlay of the building,” Albrecht said. “Right now we’re starting to say this is how it would look.”

$3.25 million has been allocated for the project, with acreage on a larger scale than the Sterlingworth site.

“One of the things that was very important to us is your having $3.25 million allocated for this project … your previous site was substantially smaller than 3.88 acres … changing the potential for site improvement and costs,” Albrecht said.

Trent suggested a ‘site-specific’ barrier, possibly a row of hedges, some short fencing, or even a grassy knoll, that would divide the two parcels.

Albrecht said the topography report from the surveyor would be forthcoming shortly, possibly within days, and that this report would be added to new versions of the site map.

“It’s a lot less worrisome as a site and there’s more flexibility than where you previously were,” Albrecht stated. “Urban advantages such as walkablility are things that I think we’ll need to really consider; such as accessibility for people who come to this site by car.”

Trent said he felt the new site “built for the future” because of growth in that area.

Sauer mentioned a possible ‘greenway planning project’ in conjunction with the town of Windsor that would provide a greenway stretching from Vidant Bertie Hospital to Bertie’s DSS offices, even to the Cashie River Campground and Treehouse Village off West Elm Street.

“Having a walking loop close to people’s housing is typically a bump to property values,” Albrecht said. “You try to lay things out as efficiently and sensible as possible.”

The architect said to have something left over for site improvement costs, the project needed to be around a target of $250/square foot, or roughly a 12,000 square foot structure.

“While we want to invest the budget into building as much as possible, but at the same time we don’t want to short-sell site improvement,” Albrecht stated. “We’ve got to make the budget work.”

The Board also discussed with the architect a future joint facility project to replace the current Parks and Recreation/Council on Aging building, currently located off School Street.

Albrecht requested a soil boring of at least 50 feet deep to learn the bearing capacity for the soil; at least 25 feet deep where the parking lot would be located.

“With sometime like this, you don’t want to just guess,” he cautioned.

An additional work session date of Sept. 10 was discussed for the architect to return and the Commissioners to view a final project design and site plan concept, and to discuss any other ways to incorporate citizen input and involvement in the project.