VALDESE -- The Valdese Town Council is moving forward with a new public safety building to house its fire and police departments.
And officials say it can be built without raising property taxes.
On Tuesday, the town council voted 3-0 to approve a contract of up to $444,600 with CBSA Architects to do the design work for a new public safety building. Council members Keith Ogle and Andy Thompson were absent from the meeting.
Town Manager Seth Eckard said the money for the contract will be part of a loan the town plans to use for the construction of the building. He said the town also will use some of the money it has saved in its capital reserve fund for the project, which is $175,000, to pay for some of the early expenses.
Eckard said the estimated cost of the construction for the new building is around $5.7 million. He said they won’t know the actual cost until it’s designed and goes out for bids.
The town plans to apply for a 40-year loan from the United States Department of Agriculture to pay for the project. Eckard said he believes the town can get the loan with an interest rate of around 2 percent or 2.25 percent.
He estimates the yearly payment on the loan will be $230,000 to $250,000.
And town officials say they’ve determined how to pay the yearly payment on the loan.
“We are not going to raise taxes to pay for this new building,” Eckard said.
He said the town will use $100,000 of the $125,000 that was generated with the property tax revaluation last year. It also will use ABC store revenue funds, he said. Eckard said the debt the store owes the town will be paid off after next year. He estimates ABC distribution will be $80,000 to $100,000 a year, saying the amount will fluctuate depending on the gross sales of the store each year. The ABC store board presented a $25,000 check to the town during Tuesday’s meeting.
The remainder of what is needed to service the debt will come from the budget, Eckard said. He said this is the last year the town owes debt on the Burke Business Park, which is $30,000 that can be used to pay the loan on a new public safety building.
Eckard said the town has been planning to address its public safety building needs for two years.
The council and town staff have been considering options to house its fire and police departments after its current public safety building on Faet Street started cracking.
Extreme cold weather in January 2018 caused the walls of the building to crack and existing cracks got bigger, according to town officials. In March 2018, then Fire Chief Charlie Watts told the town council that he could stick his fingers in some of the cracks. The cracks are large enough and numerous enough that it concerned them about the structural integrity of the building, he said.
The town hired Structural Engineer C. Michael Alberto III to evaluate the building and determine whether it is still safe for police and fire personnel. The council had to figure out whether to repair the town’s public safety building or build a new one.
“We’ve done a lot of strategic thinking when it comes to this project,” Eckard said. “And no services will suffer.”
Mayor Chip Black appointed a committee in May that was made up of other council members and town staff to review potential firms.
With the 29 firms that submitted qualifications for the project, the committee narrowed the choices down to three firms and interviewed them in July. The committee then recommended the council go with CBSA out of Hickory, Eckard said.
Eckard said the building has to be designed to last beyond 60 years. He said it has to be designed to essential government building code because it has to outlast every other building in town in the event of a natural disaster.
He expects the project to take around two years from start to finish, with the design portion of the project taking about six months. The town will then have public presentations of the design work before it goes out for construction bids, Eckard said.
The new public safety building will be built on a 2.34-acre plot of land the Rostan family donated to the town for the project. The land is located on the eastern end of town behind the East End Barber Shop on Main Street, Eckard said. The tax value of the property is $160,000, according to county property records.
As for what will happen to the current public safety building, Eckard said it will eventually be demolished. He said that will happen once the town has completely moved both its police and fire departments into the new building. Eckard estimates demolition on the building will cost between $100,000 and $150,000.
Demolition, he said, likely won’t happen for around three years.
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