LAURINBURG — The Laurinburg City Council asked administrators on Thursday to get with state officials to see how much might be spent on a new City Hall.
But Mayor Matthew Block said the city would better off sprucing up the current municipal building instead of spending millions on a new one.
The council voted unanimously during a special meeting Thursday to have the city manager and the finance director work with the Local Government Commission to get an idea of how much the city could borrow without raising taxes.
Once that is done, representatives from Creech & Associates, the architectural design firm, and Edifice, Inc., the construction management firm, would know what kind of building, if any, the city could afford.
Right now, the price tag to build and equip a two-story 22,500-square-foot municipal building hovers around $10.8 million, according to Brent Green with the architectural design firm Creech & Associates.
The new facility would house all city departments including the Laurinburg Police Department. The new city hall would be built between the current municipal building and the Barrett Building.
Green said reducing the proposed floor plan by about 1,825 square feet would save the city about $450,000.
“I think it is an important point to make that we are here to serve you all,” Green said. “We’re not out to build the Taj Mahal.”
City officials have said that there is a need for a new City Hall to replace the one that was built in the mid-1950s and expanded in the 1970s. City staff and architects have also argued that the design and construction of the current building make electrical and technological upgrades difficult and costly.
At least study identified the need for 22,000 square feet to house various city departments —7,000 more than the current police station and W. Charles Barrett administrative building combined. Other concerns include the level of public access to the police department, asbestos flooring, and staircases too narrow to comply with current fire codes.
Block, who has been a staunch critic of the project, said he disagreed with what he suggested was biased study on space needs. He said the firms that conducted studies stood to benefit financially from the city constructing a new facility.
He added the city staff has not grown significantly and that the current building is underutilized.
“There are no space issues as far as I can tell,” Block said. “All this high-flung talk about renovations and about moving walls and ceiling heights … what about about just repainting it and reorganizing where people sit?”
But Green told council that it would be more expensive to renovate City Hall than construct a new one. Costs would include bringing the current facility up to code; reinforcing the structure; and relocating personnel.
“We can continue to kick it down the road or we can renovate this building and the more I hear about that, the more it seems like we are throwing good money after bad,” said council member Drew Williamson. “I think we need to find out how much it might cost and move forward from there.”
Council member J.D. Willis agreed.
“Let’s see what the dollar amount is,” Willis said. “I want to know what the maximum amount we can borrow without raising taxes.”
Reach Scott Witten at 910-506-3023