DAVIDSON – Presentations, conversations and decisions made on June 12 will play a significant role in determining town board agendas and public discussions for months to come – and potentially the scope and location of town administrative, police and fire department operations for the next two decades.
At the town board's May 22 meeting, Brent Green with the Creech & Associates architectural consulting firm reported that a total package of recommended changes at the former Davidson IB School and town hall, and the estimated price of renovations required to transform those facilities into suitable town office space, will be presented at the board's June 12 meeting.
“The cost estimates will be ready,” Green told commissioners. “That will be a big night.”
If, after hearing the potential price, commissioners decide the projects are worth pursuing, a fast-paced process will begin to distribute details, garner public input and complete steps required to add a municipal facilities bond referendum to the November ballot.
“We're looking at a fairly tight time frame,” Town Manager Jamie Justice told commissioners on May 22. Assistant Town Manager Dawn Blobaum added “And our schedule is getting tighter.”
Their comments were accompanied by an informational sheet listing targeted dates of meetings, public hearings and approvals necessary for the bond referendum to be presented for town voter consideration in November.
The proposals and potential costs to be presented June 12 are, themselves, the result of a process that began just two months ago. In February, commissioners voted to pause a town facilities study initiated last year.
In the weeks that followed, under Blobaum's guidance, other facility options were identified, including the transformation of the IB school, most recently Lake Norman Christian School, at 251 South St. In March, commissioners asked Creech for a basic evaluation of the school as a potential town office. Positive preliminary findings triggered a more detailed analysis. Results were presented May 22. When Green finished the summary, Commissioner Jim Fuller asked, “Should we keep going?”
Green answered succinctly: “The positives outweigh the negatives.”
IB school pros, cons
Without hinting at costs, Green said major changes, upgrades and additions are required to bring the 30,000-square-foot former IB school, built 70 years ago, up to modern standards. But his overall assessment was enthusiastic.
“The structure is in amazing condition,” he said, specifically mentioning the roof, stairway and masonry. “It's a tank of a building.”
But Green said restrooms, windows, building access points and mechanical systems demanded attention. And there are decisions to make about dealing with some hazardous materials.
“I think these were all things we expected,” Green said. “The process was designed to identify these things now so we can prepare for what we need to do.”
Creech was involved in the previous study of town hall expansions to house police and fire departments and has incorporated a revised review in the current study. At the May 22 meeting, Green said he believed renovations inside town hall combined with the conversion of outside areas would provide ample main floor operational space for the police department.
And Green added a reconfiguration of ground floor space and some additions should be adequate to meet the fire department's needs.
Police Chief Penny Dunn told commissioners the initial design looks promising.
“I think their solution is very workable for the next 20 years,” Dunn said. “They have addressed some of the serious concerns we have now.”
Fire Chief Bo Fitzgerald, who wasn't enthusiastic about an earlier space proposal, said the new plan for housing his department – which Green said would involve moving vehicle bays closer to Jackson Street – could be a workable solution.
“I'm encouraged,” he said. “And I'm looking forward to working with a consultant who specializes in fire stations.”