Polk seeks local architect for new social services building

Published 2:19 pm Friday, January 30, 2009

Polk County is searching for an architect, preferably one from the local area, to design a new building for the county&39;s department of social services (DSS).

Commissioners met last week and created a sub-committee to establish criteria for an architect.

Commissioner Ray Gasperson said he realizes the economy is bad right now, but this project needs to be done because of the condition of the Jervey Palmer building.

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&dquo;Folks, I was shocked frankly with what I saw,&dquo; Gasperson said about a recent tour he took of the Jervey Palmer building in Tryon.

The building looks charming driving by, he said, and sitting in the Meeting Place dining room wasn&squo;t so bad, but touring the whole building put a new perspective on it.

Commissioner Warren Watson said work is slow for many contractors right now and the county has received letters from several local architects wanting to look at the county&squo;s projects right now. Commissioners expressed their desire to hire locally.

The sub-committee will consist of Watson, county board chair Cindy Walker, county manager Ryan Whitson, DSS representatives and Cecil Cannon, who the county has selected to be the project manager.

The Jervey Palmer building currently houses the Meeting Place Senior Center, DSS, mental health and veteran&squo;s affairs.

Commissioners for years have discussed getting its offices out of the circa-1930 former hospital, which is expensive to operate and maintain and has awkward space because of the many hallways that were part of its hospital design.

The county board recently agreed to purchase the former Carolina Classical School to house a new senior center and to purchase two acres on Park Street in Columbus to construct a new DSS building that will also house mental health.

Commissioners said they will choose an architect in the same manner they used recently to choose a planner for a comprehensive land use plan. The sub-committee will come up with criteria for an architect and the county will hear presentations from a few architects interested once the committee narrows down selections.

Whitson estimated at the county&squo;s recent retreat that a new DSS building will cost about $2 million.