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Latest City Hall option will debut Tuesday, August 22

By Jefferson Weaver, jeffersonweaver@nrcolumbus.com

After a less than enthusiastic response to the first draft, Whiteville City Council will get its first look at a new option Tuesday (August 22, 2017) in a special workshop. City Manager Darren Currie announced the 4:30 p.m. workshop last week.

The first draft proposals from Oakley Collier Associates were panned by city council in February, and later modifications were not very well received.

City Council voted in February to demolish the 1937- era Whitley Building, which was originally built as a U.S. Post Office. The building is riddled with mold, lead and asbestos, which led to its closure in 2015.

The Police Department moved its evidence locker from the basement well before that due to water seeping through the foundation of the building. Planning and inspections offices were moved out of the basement to a downtown storefront in 2014 because the mold was causing health issues for employees.

All city offices have been moved to an interim facility in the Hillcrest Plaza while officials review their options. Oakley estimated repairing and upgrading the City Hall would run more than $3 million, while demolishing the current structure and several nearby homes owned by the city, then constructing a new, larger building, would run just over $2.5 million.

City council voted in July to approve a plan using a combination of borrowed funds, savings from loan payoffs, and a tax increase to fund a new structure. Oakley had assured the board that any proposal would include “features” of the original City Hall.

Council members were displeased with the “generic” appearance of the original draft, the lack of an entrance facing Madison Street and other architectural details. A modified proposal including improvements to allow the municipal building to act as an emergency command center received a cold reception in July as well.

Tim Oakley assured the board that all proposals were flexible. Before actual design work can begin, the city must demolish the Whitley Building and other properties, and level the site.

Currie noted in his brief to the council that specifications for the demolition project – some of which will be handled by city personnel – are still in the final stages.

Stuart Rogers