The Harnett County Board of Commissioners is expected to debate — and ultimately approve — an additional $3 million for the construction of a new government center without raising taxes when they meet Monday night.
During a Tuesday work session, they were informed of the cost increases by Assistant County Manager Brian Haney as well as representatives from the architectural and project management firms who are currently in the planning stages of the project.
Haney justified not only the additional costs, but the project itself, by telling the panel while the funding for new schools — which will also be approved during the same meeting — are at the forefront of public thinking, pressure on county agencies as a result of the growth currently taking place, is weighing heavily on the need to build what will be called the Harnett County Government Center and Public Library.
“Obviously we hear frequently about the need for new schools, but there are also growth pressures on county services,” Haney said. “For instance, social services is maxed out in their current space and child support is currently in Erwin due to additional demands on services. The public library is continuing to evolve with technological changes.”
He also offered additional space requests by the sheriff’s office and library as prime examples to justify the new center. Haney said many county offices are currently running out of space and are in need of the new building’s offerings.
“Many of our departments need additional space,” he said. “But we have to make sure we obviously provide that space as responsibly as possible and get the most out of it that we can.”
Representatives of both Little Diversified, the architects, and Balfour Beatty, the construction manager, told commissioners they had found ways to reduce the cost by making changes to things such as the facade of the building and using less glass.
They also said the cost of furniture, fixtures and equipment was estimated to increase the cost of the project by an additional $1.5 million, a total not included in prior funding discussions. Both contractors also cited the anticipated increase in both labor and material costs as an additional reason for the project being over the initially approved $20 million.
“For a number of reasons the cost of this project has come in higher than initially anticipated,” Haney said. “The project team has done a great deal to try and bring this project back on budget. We made significant cuts to the recommended finishes, we’ve reduced certain features of the building and site work and we’ve even eliminated entire departments that were initially planned for this building. We’ve identified space where they’ll go, but the scope has dramatically decreased.”
Eric Schoenagle of Little Diversified offered three options the combined county and contractors project development team felt were the most obvious at the present time.
The first was to stay on the same $20 million budget which would force the need to make several changes. Among them making program changes and allowing for future increases in construction costs. It would also delay construction and occupancy.
The second was to increase the budget to the projected levels which would allow the building of the center to move forward and the third was to seek alternative funding sources.
None of the options will require any increase in taxes and was based on conservative projections of future revenues and growth.
What the commissioners decided to bring to Monday night’s meeting was to increase the budget to meet construction costs and at the same time find alternate ways to fund furniture, fixtures and equipment, which also includes utilizing current furniture and other items that would still be suitable.
They are expected to authorize the issuance of General Obligation Bonds to cover the remaining estimated $23 million to see the building become a reality.
“I’ll be in favor of option two,” Commissioner Chairman Gordon Springle said. “We need to do it, that’s what the problem is now, we’re kicking things down the road for schools and everything else and that’s why it’s costing up the kazoo to get it done.”
The final discussion on the project is slated to be on the agenda when commissioners meet Monday at 6 p.m.