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The Board of County Commissioners has voted to proceed with an offer to purchase the site of the former Walmart building for the purpose of renovating and housing the Haywood County Department of Social Services and Haywood County Health Department.

 

The vote was taken during a Special Called Meeting held Wednesday, January 13. The cost of the purchase and renovation is estimated to be $12 million to $12.5 million. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the county plans to secure a loan from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture to finance the project and pay the debt service over the next 40 years.

 

Commissioners said they believed renovating the former Walmart building and moving DSS and Health Department operations to the facility would provide county taxpayers with the best and least expensive way to meet a need that has topped the County’s Capital Improvements Plan since it was revised in 2007.

 

“The County has a unique opportunity to purchase a vacant, existing structure for a fraction of the cost of purchasing additional property and building new structures,” said Chairman Kirk Kirkpatrick. “This also allows us to solve the multiple problems found with renovating the existing DSS and Health Department buildings.”

 

The Department of Social Services is currently located at 486 E. Marshall Street in a facility that once housed an addition to Haywood County Hospital built in 1950.  The Health Department is located at 2177 Asheville Rd. in a facility built in 1954. The problems in both buildings include severely limited office, meeting and storage space; significant structural issues that limit energy efficiency and options for providing legally-protected services to clients, such as the confidentiality of health information; and multiple issues related to achieving compliance with state and local building codes.

 

The DSS building has been ranked in the bottom one percent in the state by the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services and could face financial penalties if corrective actions are not taken. In 2008, two independent architectural firms explored options for meeting the required corrective actions and concluded that all available renovation options were cost prohibitive and that an additional 15,000 to 20,000 square feet was needed at the present site to comply with state requirements.

 

Commissioners cited several additional factors for deciding to move forward with the project now. For example, the county’s annual debt service payment to USDA, which would begin in 2012, could be offset by reimbursements that DSS receives from the state on depreciation of DSS buildings & revenue from a lease agreement with Tractor Supply Co. that the County would inherit from the current owners of the Walmart building. The reimbursement & lease revenue combined could be applied to the debt payment, which would lower it from about $631,500 annually to about $260,000 annually.

 

County Manager David Cotton said the next step in the process is to select an architect to design the renovation of the Walmart building and to formally submit a loan application to the USDA. Cotton said he hoped to have a cost estimate from the architect, directly, as this is a requirement of USDA for inclusion in the loan application.

For more information, contact:
David Teague,
Public Information Officer
Haywood County
828-452-7305; 828-400-9691 or

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