In a session that began at 10 AM and ended at 4 PM, Lincoln County Commissioners spent Friday in a day-long session that was the first of several workshops on the 2019-2020 County budget.
Among the things they decided was the location of a new Lincoln County Courthouse. The previous board had already decided not to attempt to expand the current building on the Courtsquare. Friday, the board, now with two new members, decided that the new courthouse should be built on County property near the Lincoln County Health Dept. (the old hospital location) on Gamble Drive.
The vote was four-to-one with Commissioner Anita McCall, who lives in Lincolnton, the only 'no' vote.
Part of the reason for the decision is that the County already owns the land and has other County facilities planned for that area. Property acquisition to locate a new courthouse on W. Water St. (the alternative) would have added to the cost.
Lincolnton's City Council favored the Water St. location. Some members of the Council say that moving the courts out of downtown will kill downtown development.
Commissioners will meet again Monday evening (6:30) in their regular mid-monthly session and are expected to make the next move toward developing plans for a new courthouse--approving a phase two design contract with Moseley Architects for $2,980,150 for design and development of plans for the new courthouse.
While the plans will be completed in fiscal 2019-2020, the construction won't yet begin. It will be several years before the new courthouse is completed and ready for occupancy.
In other discussions on Friday, Commissioners gave preliminary approval to several items for next year's budget, among them:
$192,500 for a new parking lot between W. Water St. and E. Main St. in the first block west of the Citizens Center
$100,000 for Trail Planning & Construction along the adopted routes of the Carolina Thread Trail. The plan also calls for adding bicycle and pedestrian accommodations at locations along NC73 and NC16.
$75,000 to convert a current 9-1-1 office at the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office on John Howell Memorial Drive into a magistrate's office--seen as a major security improvement.
$1,050,000 for the architectural study, the first step in the construction of a new 35,000 sq. ft. Emergency Services Facility. The new facility will consolidate all Emergency Services under one roof.
$300,000 for a new West Lincoln Library Park. The new passive park at the West Lincoln Library site will include a multigenerational playground, exercise stations, walking trails, green space, shelter, outdoor classroom, restrooms, etc. Total park size will be 20-25 acres.
$315,295 for LUCUS chest compression devices for EMS. These devices have increased cardiac arrest survival rates by 40% in Lincoln County since some were put into use. The purchase of 15 additional devices will complete the implementation of the units--to be financed over a period of three years.
$100,000 for transportation corridor planning.
Commissioners turned down replacing the roof at the old Block Smith gymnasium. The project would cost almost $400 thousand.
A science center had been planned for the old facility near the Lincoln Campus of Gaston College. Last year, Commissioners approved giving the building to STEM Career Path Project, Inc., a 501-c (3) corporation. They gave Edward McFadden, who proposed the project, 18 months to raise two million dollars before turning over ownership. McFadden estimated renovating the facility for its new purpose would cost about seven million dollars.
We missed the discusssion (I am told it was part of the consent agenda at a recent Commissioners' meeting, but I was unable to find it in the minutes that had been approved) but we were told over the weekend that the science center project is dead and that McFadden had withdrawn his proposal.
At Friday's session, Commissioners heard the good news that the County's Fund Balance is expected to grow before the end of the current fiscal year to its largest amount ever--some $34 million, with over $24 million of that unencumbered funds. The Fund Balance is money the County includes in its budget planning that can be used for sudden needs that may arise and can fund County operations should there be months in which income doesn't meet the current needs.
Commissioners gave approval to a raise for themselves. The last raise for Lincoln County Commissioners was a decade ago, and other area counties are paying their Commissioners more or providing them with health insurance--a sizeable fringe benefit. The decision was on a 4 - 1 vote. Commissioner Bud Cesena said he couldn't support a raise for Commissioners in a year when there might be a tax increase.
Monday night's meeting will include two agenda items of special interest to East Lincoln residents. One is the approval of dog park additions to the Rescue Squad Park on Galway Lane near Lake Norman Charter School. The dog park had been a part of the original plans but hadn't been completed to keep the cost of completion down, but now the Denver/Lake Norman Rotary Club will fund the improvements and maintain them according to the agreement.
County Planning Director Andrew Bryant will also present a request for funding of a Transportation Corridor Study requested by Commissioners this past summer. Tentative approval was already given as a part of the budget planning process Friday.
Commissioners are also expected to approve a contract with Neill Construction Company for renovations to the building at Town & Country Shopping Center that will become the new home of the Lincoln County Senior Center. Neill presented the low bid last week--$1,695,000 for the project.
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