Board of Commissioners presented with design for Health Department renovations

ASHEBORO — The Randolph County Board of Commissioners met Monday, February 6, where they were provided updates on two of the county’s major construction projects.

The first item of new business was an update on the Health Department renovations.

“Last summer, you awarded a contract to Smith Sinett Architecture to design a renovation to the health department, which is located at the Ira McDowell Center,” said County Engineer Paxton Arthurs. “Since that time, Smith Sinett has worked to finalize the design and put together the bid documents.”

The current Health Department space is 16,000 square feet, with 35 offices, two dental offices, ten general exam rooms, a pharmacy, a laboratory, and supply storage.

“The building was built in the early ‘80s to the best that we can determine, so it’s about 40 years old,” said Robert Carmac of Smith Sinett. “During that time, it only had some minor renovations. No major renovations, improvements, or reorganizations of the space have happened since then, so it’s badly needed to improve the workflow.”

The new projected site plan will feature three additional offices, an independent dental suite with three additional exam rooms, six additional general exam rooms, additional and organized storage, a dedicated check-in/check-out area, one additional break room, a fitness room, and secured circulation corridors.

The project is split into seven alternative phases, with the base bid coming in at $1.718 million. With all the additions, the construction cost comes out to $2.483 million, and with all the fees added, the total project budget would be $2.895 million.

“One of the reasons we’ve laid this project out the way we did is one: to help with the budget,” Carmac said. “We know that there’s going to be multiple funding sources for this project, so we’ve staggered this into seven alternates to allow budget flexibility and allow this project to come in budget whether we get all seven or just one or two parts.”

According to Carmac, the projected completion date would be April 2024.

After the presentation, the board authorized county staff to advertise the project for bids.

The board was also given an update on the Farm Food and Family Education Center.

“The architects have just completed the design and development phase of the Farm Food and Family Education Center,” said Cooperative Extension Director Kenny Sherin. “The latest estimate actually came down a little bit from the schematic development phase. Several factors, but the architects and engineers have been working very hard to find cost-cutting measures. They were able to reduce the cost down to $28.9 million. We have secured $28.3 million, so we just need an additional $600,000 to meet the current estimate.”

The final action that the board took was the setting of a public hearing as the first step in abolishing and restructuring the final six fire districts in the county.

“Until recently, fire departments in Randolph County had their tax rates capped at a $0.15 rate, and that’s because of how they were formed and when they were formed,” said Associate County Attorney Aimee Scotton. “Based upon needs expressed by several of our fire departments and the expectation that more would need that in the future, we began abolishing the current capped districts and recreating them without the cap.”

The final six districts that will be restructured are the Coleridge-Erect, Fair Grove, Farmer, Julian, Northeast, and Staley Fire Districts.

The new districts will be exactly the same size and area but will give fire departments the option to raise their tax rate if necessary. This decision itself is not a tax increase.

The Randolph County Board of Commissioners will next meet March 6.

By Ryan Henkel, North State Journal