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Architects sought for DSS building

Polk County is now seeking proposals from architects to design a 12,500-square-foot human services building.
The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Monday and agreed to begin advertising the project next Monday.
Polks project manager Cecil Cannon also presented a timeline for the process of constructing a new department of social service (DSS) building, which is to be sited on county-owned property at the recreation complex in Mill Spring.
Polk County is hoping to use a Mitchell County DSS building plan as its model for construction with some modifications. The Mitchell County building is 11,450 square feet. Polk is planning about 1,000 square foot larger.
Commissioner Tommy Melton expressed concern over the county planning another 1,000 square feet, considering Mitchell County has more employees than Polk County in its DSS department. But other commissioners and Cannon said that the Mitchell County building has offices that are too small to meet state recommendations. Polk County is also planning to construct the building for future growth, with approximately seven offices being unused when the building initially opens.
The countys schedule includes selecting an architect in April, approving a building design in August, and awarding a contract bid in September. Construction would begin at the end of September.
Commissioners want a one-story building to alleviate costs such as an elevator and second floor restrooms.
Commissioners are also discussing clearing a larger pad for the building in case a future addition needs to be made or another building needs to be constructed for a service, such as mental health.
Cannon discussed how the plan is to make the building as “green” as possible to save the county money on providing utilities for the building.
“We are going to make it as economical as we can make it,” said Cannon, “and as green as we can afford it.”
Polk County is estimating it will need to finance approximately $2 million for the building. Payments for the loan will not begin until fiscal year 2011-2012. Cannon estimated it will cost approximately $105 per square foot to construct the building.
Melton stressed his concern with the size of Polk Countys building compared to Mitchell County Monday. He said if Polk has a smaller staff, he is having a problem understanding the need to go larger than Mitchell County. Melton asked what the extra 1,000 square feet will cost. Commissioner Warren Watson said between $85,000 and $100,000 more.
Watson and others said the office sizes of Mitchell Countys building do not meet standards and Polk wants to ensure the building is built to meet future needs. Some Mitchell County offices are 96 square feet and Polk County mentioned up to 120 and 150 square foot offices.
Commissioner Rene McDermott said the day the countys Womack building was finished it was already too small to meet the countys needs. She said she doesnt want the same thing to happen with the new human services building and Cannons recommendations make good sense.
Commissioners have been working for some time to get all offices out of the decrepit Jervey Palmer building, the original St. Lukes Hospital, located in Tryon. Utility and maintenance costs are onerous at Jervey Palmer. Polk last year purchased and moved the Meeting Place Senior Center and the veterans affairs office out of the Jervey Palmer building and into the former Carolina Classical School building off Skyuka Road near Columbus. The Jervey Palmer building will no longer be needed once a new DSS building is in place.
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