Manager: Get bids for Camden gov't services complex


Ken Bowman


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Monday, April 15, 2019

CAMDEN — County Manager Ken Bowman is urging the Camden Board of Commissioners to seek construction bids for a planned public services complex in order to get a firmer grip on the project’s cost.

The county has already purchased a 7.69-acre tract across the road from the courthouse complex for the project, which currently calls for two buildings with a total of roughly 19,000 square feet.

Architectural estimates put the cost for the first phase of the public services complex at $5.6 million and $11.6 million for the entire project. The first phase is envisioned as a library and community building/senior center.

Both figures “are just estimates and will no doubt change depending on the number of responses received when this project is opened for bids,” Bowman said when asked about the cost.

Bowman told county commissioners last week that they should approve putting the project out for bids so the county can find out what contractors actually would charge for building the complex’s first phase.

“My advice is take that and go out for bids and see how they come in,” Bowman said.

The description of the facility in the county’s five-year Capital Improvement Program, or CIP, calls it “a one-stop approach to service delivery” that could include offices for the county manager, human resources director, finance officer and tax administrator. The facility also would include space for the utilities, parks and recreation, and planning and community development departments; the Camden Center of N.C. Cooperative Extension; Soil and Water Conservation Service; and the county library.

The county’s CIP includes a statement about county officials needing to confer with Camden school officials about “the possible re-purposing of the Camden County High School campus to accommodate elements of the county’s program such as Senior Center and Parks & Recreation.”

School officials, however, have said the high school campus might be needed for a new middle school if plans for a new high school move forward. Moving the school district’s middle grades to the high school campus could free up space at the current middle school for elementary grades, they’ve said.

Bowman said how the current high school campus might be reused would be part of the feasibility study the county and school district have authorized as they contemplate whether to build a new high school. M.B. Kahn Construction is performing the feasibility study, expected to be completed by June 30, at a cost of up to $25,000.

Another project the county discussed last week, but isn’t likely to move forward without some kind of grant funding, is a proposed sidewalk between the current high school and the nearby Dollar General store.

Bowman said Dan Porter, the county’s director of planning and community development, has noticed students use a grassy area along U.S. Highway 158 to walk to the store.

“That’s the reason he brought this forward,” Bowman said.

Commissioner Clayton Riggs called the sidewalk project “worthy of thinking about.” He and Commissioner Randy Krainiak suggested looking for N.C. Department of Transportation grants or other sources of funding for the project.

Board of Commissioners Chairman Tom White said the continuing development of shops in Camden’s Courthouse area will likely increase the number of pedestrians there in the future.