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Sylva guts green amenities from police department project, price still over budget

The Sylva town board has trimmed the green energy features from its new police department project and boosted the proposed cost to more than $1 million.

The town originally budgeted $786,500 for the construction. The lowest bid, however, came in nearly $100,000 higher, forcing the town to decided whether to downsize the project or increase the amount of it’s willing to spend.


Interim Town Manager Mike Morgan presented several different options to the board at its meeting last week. Each choice detailed more extensive cuts to the original plan.

“We missed it as far as what the cost would be,” Morgan said. “We wished it would have been lower.”

The project now also includes roof repairs, an unexpected $70,000 cost, Morgan said.

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Although it had just learned that none of the eight bids came within budget, the Sylva town board was forced to make decision that night because the lowest bidder, John Burgin Construction of Waynesville, would only guarantee its price until June 22. The next board meeting is June 21.

“We are cutting it close,” said Mayor Maurice Moody.

The town board unanimously approved $105,526 in cost savings. The new plan omits a 384-sqaure-foot garage, the removal of an old fuel tank, a solar hot water system, a photovoltaic cell system, a new water tap and half of the cabinet space.

“It seemed like removing the garage is a first choice of everybody’s,” said Commissioner Christina Matheson. “It is also something that could be added later without detriment to the building.”

Commissioner Harold Hensley wanted to keep the photovoltaic solar cells, but other board members saw the cells as a unnecessary expense compared to other items.

“See those are the first things that I think need to be eliminated,” said Commissioner Stacy Knotts.

The photovoltaic solar cells convert the sun into electricity. With enough solar heat, the department could avoid buying any electricity during the daylight hours. It would still need to purchase power from Duke Energy during the night because the system does not store energy.

“I just feel like they are an extravagance,” said Commissioner Lynda Sossamon. “It’s very nice to be green, which I think you all are trying to do but … that might be something we can eliminate and do later.”

The other green features would have heated water for showers and provided additional natural lighting to the building.

If there is money leftover toward the end of the project, the board agreed that it would first pay for the other half of the cabinets, which it eliminated from the plan.

In addition to figuring out what to cut, the board confronted the problem of funding. Even with the project changes, the town needed to come up with more money to cover the cost of construction, architect fees and other related costs.

The board had already committed $200,000 of the Fisher Creek money to the project and board members were hesitant to pledge more. Sylva received $3.5 million in 2007 from the sale of its Fisher Creek watershed, and the town board has been reluctant to spend the money.

“Once it’s gone, it’s gone,” Morgan said.

However, the board agreed to take another $53,608 from the fund. An extra $164,866 will come from a revolving loan fund and an Urban Development Action Grant, bringing the total budget to a little more than $1 million.

The town will open the new police department in the former county library building on Main Street. Town police are short on space in the current police department on Allen Street. Fifteen full-time officers and three auxiliary officers share just 1,000 square feet. The old library is 6,400 square feet in size.

The plans also call for a new look for the library façade. That includes a portico entrance, which as it sounds is a porch of sorts leading into the building, plus simplification of the roof canopy. Inside, the police department will have women and men’s locker rooms, office space and a secure area for keeping evidence critical in criminal cases.

No jail cells will be built in the future police department. As takes place now, any prisoners detained by police will be taken to the county jail at the administration building.

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