Building swap in the works for Church Hill city departments

Jeff Bobo • May 16, 2007 at 12:00 PM

CHURCH HILL - Church Hill is still going to get a new Senior Center, but the plans were altered drastically Tuesday evening to include changes that will also affect the location of the public library and police department.

Last November, the Church Hill Board of Mayor and Aldermen agreed to build a new 12,000-square-foot Senior Center on city-owned property across from Church Hill Middle School. That project was estimated to cost about $350,000.

But Mayor Dennis Deal said the deal to purchase the 28,000-square-foot former IGA grocery store building in the Church Hill Shopping Plaza for $400,000 was too good to pass up. The building has been vacant for about seven years.

Instead of constructing a new building for nearly $30 per square foot, Deal said the city has opted to purchase a 28,000-square-foot building for $14 per square foot.

"This new library and Senior Citizens facility is really going to help the city tremendously, I believe more than we really know," Deal said. "This is going to free us up from having to build a new building from the ground up. I don't know how long it's going to take to get them (the library and Senior Center) in there, but we're going to do it as quick as we can.

"And I think one of the hidden benefits is that's going to increase traffic in the shopping plaza and hopefully help some of those businesses over there too."

Tuesday night the BMA voted unanimously in favor of the purchase, as well as the issuance of a 12-year bond up to $600,000 to pay for the building and renovations.

The plan now is to split the building in half and move the Church Hill Public Library into 14,000 square feet of space on the side of the building facing Highway 11-W.

The Senior Center will then be moved into the other half of the building facing Main Street, although Deal said he doubts wether the Senior Center needs the entire 14,000 square feet. Deal said part of that space may also be utilized for recreational offices.

The Church Hill Public Library is currently located in the small building on Main Street just east of Church Hill City Hall. When the library moves out of that building, the Church Hill Police Department is expected to move in, vacating its current home on the ground floor of City Hall.

And that newly freed up space in City Hall will be used by the building inspector, who Deal said currently shares "a closet with the janitor."

In other business Monday the BMA:•Approved the first reading of the 2007-08 fiscal year budget with the same 85 cent property tax rate as the previous year. The budget is estimating total revenue for the next fiscal year at $3.67 million and expenditures at $3.58 million for a budget surplus of slightly more than $83,000.•Approved an ordinance that would allow the mayor and aldermen to be paid for meetings other than the regular monthly BMA meeting. Currently the mayor receives $50 per regular monthly BMA meeting, and aldermen receive $30 per meeting. The new ordinance would allow the mayor and aldermen to receive that same amount for each special called BMA meeting they attend, as well as for regularly scheduled committee or commission meetings they attend. There was one dissenting vote from Alderman Rayburn Thacker, who suggested the new policy could potentially be abused to allow aldermen to be paid several times per month. Deal said he doesn't believe anyone on the BMA would stoop to scheduling unnecessary meetings to raise money.

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