Wendell to work on technology, windows, first

amoody@newsobserver.comMarch 14, 2014 

— The recently floated idea of a new town hall has largely been theoretical, but commissioners saw some details of that option and passed on it Monday night.

Instead, the Wendell town board approved spending up to $87,000 mostly for computer equipment and software and windows at the existing town hall. It also visited plans to budget for more thorough renovations of the facility in the upcoming fiscal year.

“I think it was more informational,” Town Manager Teresa Piner said of presenting commissioners the idea of a new town hall at an estimated cost of $5 million. “I think that’s what we gathered; that we just couldn’t afford that payout of $274,740 (annually) at this time. It’s probably best to wait for a while.”

Wendell has the $87,000 left over from the current fiscal year budget as a result of not pursuing a Parks and Recreation Trust Fund matching grant.

Of that amount, $41,000 is designated for new staff computers, computer backup software and an app that allows residents to report issues or ask questions about the town. Town hall windows, estimated to cost $35,000 and a new town sign on Wendell Boulevard near Old Battle Bridge Road ($11,000) make up the rest of the expenditure approved Monday night.

The projects are planned for completion by June 30.

The app and backup software took the place of $13,000 for lighting and $8,000 for awnings after board members distinguished between wants and needs.

“This is money that’s in this year’s budget, has nothing to do with another $300,000, has nothing to do with buying property, has nothing to do with building a new town hall,” Commissioner Sam Laughery said. “It’s specifically to get this building in shape so that people can work here.”

Mayor Tim Hinnant said the board can look for funding for the lighting and awnings at a later date. Those projects flow in with the other aesthetic improvements intended for the upcoming budget. Those improvements would be completed by June 30, 2015.

“The signage is something we all agreed upon – that’s something that at our last meeting we all said we wanted a sign – and we all said we wanted (Information Technology) … and we all know we’ve got to have windows,” Hinnant said. “Those are three things that are must.”

The board got a look at a proposed $300,000 worth of work slated for next year, including $145,000 for remodeling and $75,000 for heating and cooling. The rest of the amount is pinned for the board room, furniture, carpet and paint.

Commissioner Ginna Gray questioned the HVAC price tag, and asked why it is considerably higher than the $30,000 cost for a new system at the Wendell Community Center.

“The HVAC, $75,000 – I about fainted when I read that,” Gray said.

Piner said the difference is the “gut work” that would be required at town hall because the existing unit is 50 years old, and the prospect of running natural gas to the building would also add to the cost.

Some of the estimates are outdated, according to Piner, who hopes another look will result in lower figures. She plans to return her findings to the town board at its March 24 meeting.

Moody: 919-829-4806; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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