Hertford County studies options for old bank building

Published 5:36 pm Tuesday, February 1, 2022

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WINTON – The Hertford County Board of Commissioners are considering at least two options on how to best use a building here on North Main Street formerly occupied by Southern Bank.

That property was donated/gifted to the county with the transfer of the deed finalized on Dec. 1, 2020.

The building has been empty since Southern Bank officials opted to close its Winton branch in 2019.

The county commissioners have engaged in previous discussions on what to do with the property. One of those ideas was to use it for a proposed Hertford County Museum.

At their Jan. 18 meeting, the commissioners discussed hiring an architect to redesign the interior of the old bank building into the space required to house three county departments: Code Enforcement / Building Inspections / Water Department. Those three departments currently share office space in a county-owned building located at 307 West Tryon Street in Winton.

“We have taken time to evaluate the highest and best use for the property, to include the possibility of moving those three departments,” said County Manager David Cotton.

He added that the rationale for possibly relocating these specific departments revolves around customer service.

“This potential one-stop location will allow citizens to pay utility bills, building inspection fees and taxes. One thought is to use the existing drive through window for convenience,” Cotton noted.

If that becomes the plan approved by the commissioners, the spaces to be relocated include an 8-foot wide lobby area; a 14’-by-16’ space for the Water Department clerks (two employees); and office space for Building Permits, Building & Grounds, Building Inspector, and other Water Department staff.

There are a total of 20 staff members for those departments.

The redesign also needs to make space for a conference room and general building services (restrooms, electrical room, and HVAC).

The bank building is 2,800 gross square feet.

Cotton said a request for proposals were sent to architectural firms in the region. The lone response, he said, came from Intrepid Architecture of Greenville.

“What we’re asking for this evening is to move forward with the contract negotiations with Intrepid; have our attorney to look over that contract, and then bring it before you for approval,” Cotton told the commissioners. “You will also have the final say on the layout and design of the building and offer suggestions on what upgrades you would like to see.”

Cotton said Intrepid Architecture proposed a $19,000 fee for their work.

“I would recommend using our ARP (American Rescue Plan) funds, which are eligible for use for such a project,” Cotton added, referencing the federal money sent to the county in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a unanimous vote, the commissioners approved moving forward with contract negotiations with Intrepid Architecture.

If the commissioners opt to use the renovated old bank to relocate those departments, Cotton, in a follow-up interview, said the building at 307 West Tryon Street is in good condition and it would remain in use.

“The USDA currently occupies one half of the building at that address through a long term lease agreement with the county,” Cotton stated. ‘The USDA may occupy a portion or all of the vacated space depending on their expansion needs.”

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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