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Bid for Stanly County livestock arena comes in $1 million over estimate

The Stanly County commissioners agreed to try and negotiate the price of a planned livestock arena after bids for the project came in higher than anticipated.
County Manager Andy Lucas said the county originally estimated the project would run $1.7 million to $2 million. That estimate grew to $2.5 million, but when the construction bids were received, Lucas was surprised that the lowest offer, received from Simcon General Contractors in Mount Airy, was for nearly $3.5 million.
Four contractors submitted bids to build the arena behind the Stanly County Agri-Civic Center, Lucas said.
The arena is projected to be a 2,400-square-foot building, which could serve other supporting events and accommodate about 150 people
“To date, a total of $1.1 million has been pledged from non-county sources,” Lucas said. “Of this total, $536,394 has been paid; $175,000 of that $536,000 has been recognized by the board. You’ve got about $361,000 that could immediately be appropriated, but at this point in time, I’m not recommending that because you don’t need to. Then there’s an additional $573,000, almost $574,000, in non-county funds that have been committed but remain outstanding, and obviously those could be recognized at a later date.”
Since the project was more than $1 million higher than the estimate of $2.5 million, Lucas recommended attempting to negotiate the price with the lowest bidder. He will try to bring an update to the board during its August meeting.
“At this point, your options are either to basically put the project on hold and not do the project, and/or negotiate with the lowest bidder. Because it was a public bid process, you have to work with the lowest responsive bidder, and/or just not do the project,” he said. “I think at this point, we should try to see what we could do in terms of cost-engineering and working with the lowest responsive bidder to potentially bring that project down to a number that may be manageable and that this board could support.”
Lucas said the project is “pretty simple,” but that construction and materials costs have increased as the economy has improved. While Lucas noted that a growing economy is generally welcome, it can make projects cost-prohibitive. A year from now, the economy could decline, dropping the price of the project, though Lucas said the price may still stay the same or rise higher.
The bids are valid for 60 days from the date made.
The board voted 7-0 to attempt to negotiate the price; while commissioner Ashley Morgan was not present, he participated via speakerphone.

Foreclosures contract

Huneycutt Law was chosen unanimously by the board to receive the contract award for handling foreclosures made due to delinquent taxes.
Huneycutt’s rate of $235 per attorney hour, in addition to reimbursements of necessary expenses, was the cheapest bid the county received.
The county received two other bids for the work, County Tax Administrator Clinton Swaringen told the board.
“The people that we’re going to foreclose on, we have tried everything that we can legally try to collect this money to this point,” Swaringen said. “We have garnished their wages if they work, we’ve attached their bank account if we can find it, we have applied to debt set-off to get their income tax return from the state… We’ve done everything we can do. This is always our last route for collecting the taxes.”
The contract was previously held by Josh Morton of Morton and Griffin Attorneys, who resigned in May after holding the contract since 2015, Swaringen said. His contract was for $200 per hour.
In the three years Morton had the contract, $486,387.45 in delinquent taxes were collected, paid $13,017, or 2 percent of the total, Swaringen said.
“And the best news out of all of that is we haven’t had to foreclose on one person,” Swaringen said. “We haven’t had to sell it. So that’s the best news: when push comes to shove, they realize we’re serious and end up paying.”
Often, the properties are ones inherited by multiple heirs who can’t agree whether to keep or sell a property and receiving a threat of foreclosure can prompt them to decisive action, Swaringen said.

BUILD grant

The board approved a resolution supporting the county’s plan to apply with the North Carolina Department of Transportation for $400,000 from the U.S. Department of Transportation BUILD Grant program.
Candace Moffit, county transportation director, told the board that if it is awarded, the grant will not require a local match.
The resolution she requested the board pass listed the county’s intention to provide “transit options that are appealing to the student demographic and that make it possible to live, work and succeed in downtown Albemarle, which could be the spark to ignite long-term economic development in downtown Albemarle and throughout Stanly County…” since Pfeiffer University plans to expand downtown, according to the resolution.
The resolution said the project would benefit students, and in return benefit the community by “creating a quality of life that is attractive for long-term residency.”
If awarded, the grant “will support the planning for forward-thinking transportation costs, including transit shuttles throughout Albemarle that utilize cutting edge technology and improve access to educational, employment and healthcare opportunities” for county residents, the resolution said.
According to the resolution, the funds would be used for an “area greenway study, bike share facilities study, community pedestrian sidewalk assessment, drainage assessment, local area transit study, existing traffic signalization conditions report, parking study, broadband and wifi assessment, communication and public outreach.”
The council unanimously approved the resolution.

Aging Advisory

The commissioners discussed the need for members of the Region F Aging Advisory Committee, but didn’t have enough nominations to appoint anyone to the open delegate and alternate positions. The board did re-appoint Janice Abernathy as a delegate for another two-year term.
When Commissioner Scott Efird asked if the positions are advertised, Lucas said that they currently are not, but that staff could put the information on social media and the county’s website.

Conference

The board discussed sending a voting delegate to the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners annual conference in Catawba County from Aug. 23-25.
Commissioner Gene McIntyre and Chairman Joseph Burleson both said they may be able to attend, though neither could immediately commit.
The discussion was tabled until the next meeting.
The next regular meeting will be at 6 p.m. Aug. 6.

Imari Scarbrough is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News and Press.