By Tim Gardner
The Avery County Commissioners have unanimously (5-0) approved architectural firm Boomerang Design of Charlotte, NC to begin the bidding process for the construction of a new community building on the campus of Heritage Park in Newland.
Their action came during a special meeting held at the Avery Agricultural Building. All commissioners–Chairperson Martha Hicks; Vice-Chairman Tim Phillips; Blake Vance; Dennis Aldridge; and Wood Hall (Woodie) Young, Jr. were present at the meeting as were County Manager Phillip Barrier, Jr.; Assistant County Manager and Clerk to The Board of Commissioners Cindy Turbyfill; and County Finance Officer Tim Greene.
Boomerang Design officials Rob Johnson and Pierre Henwood gave the commissioners options for the community building, which will include an exhibit hall and auditorium. Johnson and Harwood provided the commissioners specific aspects of the construction project, including elevation changes in relation to the placement of sewage lines, air and heating systems, general building plan specifications, storage areas and contingency details for issues including high winds and the ability for equipment to be transported into and out of the facility.
Johnson and Henwood also informed the commissioners about the ceiling of the auditorium, its main hall and community room, including wood veneer on spacing between the wood-toned, tiled ceiling which would include slots to assist in absorbing sound in the room. Additionally, the building will include an outdoor stage that can be utilized for events on site.
A point of concern among the commissioners was the depth of the stage that will adjoin the auditorium and community room parts of the new building.
In discussing the renderings and stage plan, Commissioner Vance said he has issues with the depth of the stage in the community room, specifically that the stage size could not effectively and fully accommodate events that requires larger numbers of performers, such as musical concerts and other large gatherings that would need the space.
Johnson noted that making a change to the stage depth would facilitate a re-design of the entire building and would create a temporary delay for approval for bidding and the construction of the project.
Johnson also said with additional costs would be involved.
“We’re spending piles of money on making a change that we don’t need to,” Commissioner Aldridge said. “That’s why we talked about having the stage extension when we need it. I don’t want for our county’s taxpayers to have to add a half-million dollars where it isn’t needed.”
According to County Manager Phillip Barrier, Jr., the primary cost for the facility construction according to documentation provided will be approximately $1.05 million, an increase of more than $50,000 from the original quoted cost because of the addition of the outdoor stage being included in the bid rather than considered an alternate.
Barrier, Jr. added that the cost estimate also does not include non-construction expenses, including architectural, civil, structural and acoustical costs, as well as the costs to be procured separately for furniture, acoustical panels and sound/audiovisual equipment, bringing the potential total price tag to $1.315 million.
The commissioners previously budgeted $1.2 million for funding of the project, and moved for Boomerang Design to commence the bidding process for the community building, with the editions of including the outdoor stage in the bid, as well as changes to the thermal controls and crown molding in the community room and configuration of community room lighting.
Boomerang Design reported a timeline that with approval, the architects will meet with County Building Inspector Tommy Burleson in the near future about the project to make sure all building code and government requirements are met and to iron out, and correct, any related problems. Then bids would start on February 3, with the bids opening on March 5.
“I think once the new community building is finished, Avery’s citizens will be deeply appreciative that it was built and very proud of it,” Commissioner Hicks said. “It will have many uses and will be a big asset for our county. I’m excited and enthused about the project.”
The awarding of the project to a contractor would take place at a subsequent commissioners’ meeting. The next regular meeting of the Avery County Commissioners is Monday, Feb. 3, at the County Administrative Building in Newland. The meeting will commence at 3:30 p.m.
The community building’s scheduled construction will start in April and end in August of this year.