Polk garage to be renovated with state grant

Published 3:26 pm Wednesday, October 25, 2017

COLUMBUS – The Polk County Transportation Department is applying for fiscal year 2019 grants from the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT), with one of the grants expected to pay for the majority of renovations to the former school bus garage to relocate transportation offices.

The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Oct. 16 and approved the grant applications following a public hearing.

One of the grant applications is for administrative costs for the department, including helping to pay for an existing fleet technician monitor position. The grant will reimburse the county the cost for that position by 40 percent. The total administrative grant application for fiscal year 2019 is for $199,642.

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The capital grant includes an application for $417,055, with $162,000 to replace three vehicles and $254,555 for the garage renovations. The county plans to convert the existing garage, where the vans are now kept on Locust Street, into passenger reception, offices, break and training rooms, and to pave the parking lot and  install a motorized security gate. The county purchased the former Polk County Schools bus garage to house its transportation vans. The transportation department is currently  located in the courthouse annex building behind the courthouse in downtown Columbus.

The other grant the county is applying for is for a one-year sponsorship to offer transit industry experience to a college student. Transportation manager Dianne Timberlake said the proposed projects for the intern would be to support major events and activities, to help relocate the office to the transit building once renovated, and to do research for revenue generating projects such as advertising on the vehicles.

The total grant applications are for $649,128 with the county portion projected to be $76,519. The reimbursements will come from both federal and state funding, with the federal funding being 80 percent on all three grants.

The final decision on the funding is expected to be made in April 2018, after review by the state transportation board.

Timberlake explained that her department wants to renovate the bus garage because it is a safety issue. The buses are now parked at the garage on Locust Street and she said drivers report at 6 a.m., in the dark and sometimes in rain, on dirt and gravel surfaces.

Polk County will be paying only 10 percent of the renovations, at an estimated $29,946.

Commissioner vice chair Jake Johnson asked if the total from the county is $76,519 and if that funding is budgeted. County manager Marche Pittman said yes, that is the total county match for all the grants and the funding is budgeted every year for the transportation department.

Commissioner Ray Gasperson asked if Timberlake is comfortable the grant will fund the garage renovation.

Timberlake said yes, that officials have come and taken pictures and based on what they are saying, the grant should cover paving, the replacement of the roof and other improvements such as plumbing and HVAC.

The grants are due Nov. 3.