DSS building construction begins

Published 5:54 pm Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Crews continue work on the slab for the new DSS building, in Mill Spring adjacent to the county’s recreation park and middle school. The project has been delayed by weather this past week. (photo by Leah Justice)

County hopes to move into new building in August
Weather stalled construction last week, but the slab was poured at the new Polk County Department of Social Service (DSS) site a couple of weeks ago.
The new building is being constructed off Wolverine Trail in Mill Spring adjacent to the county’s recreation park and middle school.
Polk County Manager Ryan Whitson said the plumbing has been installed underground and the water and sewer lines are connected to the site.
The metal and beams have been ordered and should begin going up within the next couple of weeks, according to Whitson.
Whitson said the schedule is for construction to be completed sometime mid-June, weather permitting, and he hopes DSS will be able to occupy the building in August.
The new DSS building has been one of the county’s most politically controversial projects in recent years, with plans and funding being approved just prior to the 2010 election.
Most of the controversy centered around the size of the building, with last year’s board being split on the size. The majority of the board agreed to build for growth and to construct an 11,900-square-foot building with several vacant offices for future growth in the department.
The county approved a $1,590,755 bid from Able Constructors late last year for the construction. The total project is estimated at $1,914,052 with the county expecting federal and state reimbursement over the next 45 years for the project. DSS services are partially paid for by the county, state and federal governments. The life of the new DSS building is estimated at 45 years.
The county also agreed to construct the building to comply with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) guidelines, in hopes of saving on utility costs.
The county expects state and federal reimbursements of more than $95,000 for the building this fiscal year, based on an estimated 61-percent reimbursement rate.
Polk will finance an estimated $1.85 million for the project rather than using fund balance. Commissioners agreed late last year to use fund balance to pay off the remaining $2 million of a $4 million loan that included funding for the middle school, recreation park and transfer station. Paying off that loan and borrowing for the DSS building will save the county more than $360,000 once the state and federal reimbursements on the DSS loan interest are taken into account.
The county has worked for the past couple of years to get all offices out of the aged Jervey Palmer building (the former St. Luke’s Hospital) on Carolina Drive in Tryon. Commissioners have said the old building is costly to maintain and not suited for county services because  much of the square footage is made up of hallways.
The Meeting Place Senior Center, which was previously located in the Jervey Palmer building, moved in late 2009 into renovated space in the former Carolina Classical School off Skyuka Road near Columbus.
The county’s veteran’s services offices, also formerly located in the Jervey Palmer building, were moved to the new senior center building as well.
After DSS moves, the Jervey Palmer building will house only mental health services. Commissioners at one time last year considered purchasing a Thermal Belt Outreach Ministry building to house mental health services, but the purchase has not been discussed in several months.

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