Laurinburg council leaning toward a new City Hall

LAURINBURG — Though no formal action was taken, the Laurinburg City Council on Tuesday unanimously nixed the option of renovating the current city hall and police station in lieu of a new building.

Brent Green of Creech and Associates, the Charlotte architecture firm hired to design a prospective new building, presented two possible site plans for council input.

The firm is in the process of verifying a prior study of the city’s space requirements — which indicates the need for 20,000 to 25,000 square feet — and the need for various types of office and meeting space. Between the current city hall and the W. Charles Barrett Administration Building next door, the city is operating in 15,000 square feet of space.

“We’ve had an opportunity to tour the facility, both this and the Barrett building, and get an understanding of how things are stored and maybe some of the things that could be done better to make things more efficient,” said Green.

When asked by council member Mary Jo Adams about the possibility of renovating the current City Hall, Green concurred with the prior study that suggested that renovation would likely be more costly than constructing a new building, in part due to the current building’s masonry structure.

“It seems to me that it would be more economically feasible to build than to try to renovate this facility,” said council member J.D. Willis. “You start trying to reconfigure this building and you’ve got load-bearing walls … we could start renovating it and then probably find out that it’s going to cost even more than what the estimates are.

“This building is pushing 60 years old; it’s done what it’s supposed to do. We’re behind the times as it stands.”

“I’ve worked in these two buildings for 26 years and I’ve seen some of the problems, the lack of space, employees tripping over everybody and citizens not having a place to sit and get in out of the weather when we have cutoff days, so I definitely would be interested in a new building,” added council member and former city clerk Dee Hammond.

Both site plans presented involved replacing both the city hall and Barrett buildings with a single, two-story structure and making use of both lots as grounds and parking.

“The context on Church Street — beautiful, traditional buildings, stately set back off the road and tucked underneath the trees — it’s a beautiful procession down into town and we take our cues from that,” Green said. “Being respectful of the site and being respectful of the trees is something that’s very important as we look at ways to site this building.”

The architecture firm is expected to present a design during council’s Dec. 15 regular meeting, have a construction cost estimate by January and a complete design in February.

In other business on Tuesday, Chief of Police Darwin Williams responded to the city council’s request that he research the possibility of a citywide curfew for teenagers.

“I think there needs to be further discussion, but right now at this point I don’t think a curfew is the solution to our issues,” he said.

Williams said that enforcing a curfew would involve additional manpower and equipment needs: up to four new positions and vehicles. He also feared that, with already heightened patrols in high-crime areas, innocent youth in those neighborhoods would be more likely to be penalized for violating a curfew than teens walking outdoors in other areas.

“The resources we have now, we need now. I can’t pull anyone from the gang unit to deal with curfew. These guys are out here dealing with gang members and getting guns off the streets.”

He also pointed out that 33 of 43 arrests since Jan. 1 of juveniles aged 16 and 17 were made during school hours.

Council also set two public hearings for its Nov. 17 regular meeting: one on a potential seven percent reduction of city electric rates and one on a request to rezone property at 8981 Tartan Road from office/institutional to Residential-20.

Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.

By Mary Katherine Murphy

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