Asheboro council gives approval for cancer center

ASHEBORO — The Asheboro City Council met Thursday, with the primary focus of the agenda being on the petition by Cone Health for a new cancer center.

The council gave the approval to delegate a plan for the management and maintenance of the Zoo City Social District to Asheboro Downtown, Inc. 

The plan will include potential expansion targets and areas and will help to set uniform standards for signage. It will ultimately have to be brought before the council for final approval.

The council then held a public hearing for an annexation petition by Cone Health for an excess of 65 acres of former hospital land on the west side of Interstate 73/74.

“Our goal in what we are looking at is building a new cancer center in the city of Asheboro to provide state-of-the-art cancer care to the people in Randolph County and surrounding counties,” said Vice President of Oncology at Cone Health Skip Hislop. “One of the things that has transpired is that Cone Health used to have a joint venture with Randolph Hospital, and now that has ceased. Now, Cone Health provides all of the medical oncology, chemotherapy services, and things along those lines to the patients and community. Unfortunately, we’re doing that in two different buildings because of the situation.

“As you think of care for patients, it’s not the best situation for continuity of care, and what we’re looking at doing is building a new state-of-the-art cancer center on the piece of property off Sparrow Road,” continued Hislop. “What this will do is allow us to make sure that people do not have to travel for the care that they need to receive in this community. Transportation is one of the biggest challenges for any person that is undergoing cancer care, and if you have to leave the county, it has that much more chance of people not maintaining the treatment of their disease and having the best outcome that they possibly could have.”

While Cone Health is not looking to expand construction further at this time, there is still the possibility that they may use the land to develop more buildings for more medical services as the space has the ability to be developed up to 150,000 square feet and the cancer center is going to be roughly 50,000 square feet.

According to Hislop, the timeline for finishing is by approximately December 24, 2024, supply chain willing.

However, the council expressed some frustrations over the need for a new center, seemingly casting blame on Cone Health for backing out of an assumed promise.

“If Cone had bought Randolph Hospital as was planned or hoped or erroneously understood at one time, then this would not be necessary,” said Mayor Pro Tem Walker Moffitt. “If Cone operated the hospital, you would not have needed to split the entities, and it could have continued as it is now.”

Due to state regulations, a for-profit and a non-profit cannot be adjacent to one another and have to be separated by a certain distance, which prompted the need for a new center after the joint venture between Cone Health and Randolph Hospital fell through.

Due to to the need for it in the community, the council ultimately approved the annexation following the hearing with one dissension. 

“This is not an easy decision, and it’s not an easy pill for those of us in Asheboro to swallow because it can only hurt what we worked so hard to save,” said Mayor David Smith. “So, I will expect to see y’all fight for and lobby for the citizens of Asheboro in the development of this. Make sure that we don’t regret this, please.”

The council also approved a request for authorization to enter into an engineering services agreement with The Wooten Company for the proposed Trade Street renovations.

“This proposed agreement is for both pre-design and design services for an amount not to exceed $235,000,” said Community Development Director Trevor Nuttall. “The scope of the work for the project will include surveying, geotechnical services, traffic engineering, and signal design, as well as all the necessary services to develop 100% construction plans. It’s our goal at the conclusion of this agreement to be able to move into the bidding and construction phase.”

According to Nuttall, the project can be fully funded due to an appropriation by the state.

The council then approved the acquisition of the property on which the former Acme-McCrary Hosiery Mill is located for $1 million and increased the monthly stipend given to members of the Asheboro Planning Board and ABC Board from $100 to $150.

Lastly, the board awarded an $807,181 contract to Terry’s Plumbing and Utilities, Incorporated for stormwater sewer installation, sidewalk and parking lot grading and paving work at the McCrary Ballpark.

According to City Engineer, Michael Leonard, PE, this cost is well below the architect’s estimate at $1.5 million.

The Asheboro City Council will next meet January 5, 2023.

By Ryan Henkel